Legacy: Murder & Media, Politics & Prisons

Director: Michael J. Moore
Screenwriters: Michael J. Moore

Institute History

  • 1999 Sundance Film Festival


Like the infamous Proposition 187, political initiatives are often tested and translated into legislation in California. This is exactly the case with a mandatory sentencing law known as “Three Strikes, You’re Out.” The Legacy vividly shows how quickly this legislation was passed, with very little opposition, and how its costly and devastating ramifications are about to resonate across the nation.
Unfolding almost like a drama, the film focuses on two fathers who have suffered through the most horrible of crimes: Their children were murdered. These fathers are Mike Reynolds, the driving force behind the initiative, and Mark Klaas, who came on board and galvanized public support. The film reveals the outpouring of support that came from voters as a direct result of Polly Klaas’s abduction and murder. People felt helpless, and this gave them the power to do something, anything: a “taking back the streets” of sorts. Most of all, The Legacy shows the efficiency and determination of the political forces behind the bill and charts the way Marc Klaas was transformed from proponent to oppontent.
One of the film’s strengths is its decision to give equal time to both sides of the issue, using news footage and well-edited interviews with key players. Telling moments are deftly scattered throughout, such as Governor Pete Wilson’s timely shift on the issue to place him strategically on the winning side. The Legacy is a powerful portrait of political workings, civilian power, and two men who never expected to find themselves in the midst of this battle.

Michael J. Moore, Director
Michael J. Moore lives in San Francisco, studied political science at U.C. Berkeley, and has been writing documentary scripts since 1986. His writing credits include Freedom on My Mind, which won the Grand Jury Prize for best documentary at Sundance in 1994, and George Seldes: Tell the Truth and Run, both of which were nominated for Acadmey Awards. In 1994 he wrote, produced, and directed Antarctic Adventure for Rand McNally. The Legacy: Murder & Media, Politics & Prisons is his second documentary.

— Lisa Viola

Screening Details

As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]