Reviews & Quotes | The First Step

Educational Media Reviews Online | Reviewed by Catherine Michael, Communications & Legal Studies Librarian, Ithaca College
"[A] story of how, with grit and passion, bipartisanship is still possible when gridlock seems the norm."

New York Times | Natalia Winkelman
"Personal, compelling, human,"

Politico | Kathy Gilsinan
"The Kramer brothers are D.C. documentarians attuned to the guts of the policy-making process: The resulting arc resembles Schoolhouse Rock’s “How a Bill Becomes a Law,” with more length and suspense, less music, and a lot more Van Jones."

The First Step: An in-depth discussion with filmmakers & producers Lance & Brandon Kramer

Oregon Arts Watch
"It’s a fascinating exploration of how, and whether, the political process can function in these divisive times."

The Hill
"The film reminds us that we must take small steps to achieve great things."

Read at Joe's
"The First Step is a triumph of a documentary and goes beyond being a Van Jones opinion piece. This shows democracy at work and how the government can align in the name of justice and fairness. Finally, this proves that Americans don’t need to make the country great again; it’s already great."

It's Just Movies | Bev Quested
“The First Step” is an inside revelation about the dynamics between what’s good for the country and the war between political parties. It’s the frustration and wisdom of Jones, who wants to get something done, that makes this film into a bit of a thriller as we watch to see if he can succeed.

Bain's Movie Reviews

Columbia Daily Tribune | James Owen
“Incredibly intimate, far-reaching in scope and engaging. One thing I missed during the pandemic was the joy of stumbling upon a riveting piece of cinema that surprises the audience as it unfolds. I had that experience…Even if you’re not a political junkie, I think you will agree it’s one of the best films of 2021.”

International Documentary Association's Documentary Magazine | Anselm Beach
“As a film that looks intimately at what “bipartisan effort” means these days, its timeliness is evident.”

The Original Feed | Steve Ramos
“You’ll leave 'The First Step' inspired to keep working on the next steps in prison reform and equal justice."

The Knockturnal | Joshua Gutman
"A necessary watch for anyone involved in politics and activism, just to see the importance and the risks of crossing party lines."

Screen Comment | Eric Althoff
"Van Jones is a fascinating man, extraordinarily intelligent and with empathy to spare. He so often reports on the news, but this time, he gets to be the story." | Gerogi Presecky
“A movie for this moment.”

Screen Zealots | Louisa Moore
“The First Step” is a documentary that matters because it reminds us all to look beyond our differences and organize to fight for what we believe in, because we are always stronger together.”

Invention of Dreams | Yashwanth Manjunath
"Overall, The First Step is both an illuminating look into Van Jones, and an insightful portrayal of what effective legislative advocacy looks like. It’s a beautiful example of what is still possible to achieve with the right strategy. I’d highly recommend this film for anyone looking for reasons to still have hope and faith in the American experiment."

Highbrow Magazine | Ulises Duenas
"Gripping." " There are many compelling stories here, and seeing how people turn their pain into action is what makes this documentary gripping." "does a great job of telling an important story in a compelling fashion."

Atlanta Mail | Chris Jones
"An essential viewing experience for anyone interested in the challenges and triumphs of activism."

Fresh Buttered Popcorn | Joe Compton
"Well crafted." "Go support Indie Film and if you see it at your cinema, give a chance."

Reel In Film | John Ramos
"A great documentary."

AWFJ | Valerie Kalfrin

Film International | Elias Savada
"The film’s heart beats compassionately.”

The Curvy Film Critic | Carla Renata
"Brilliantly plotted and politically nuanced"

Escape Into Film | Paul Carlson
"This incisive documentary is a snap shot of sharp and seemingly wide division of modern American politics and a behind-the-scenes look at how genuine bipartisanship, compromises and all, can still find majority support...even in a nation that voluntarily divides itself between blue hats and red hats."

Willamette Week | Ray Gill Jr.
"A documentary examining what it takes to get something accomplished."

Rachel's Reviews | Rachel Wagner
"If you want to see a fascinating a look at modern day politics watch The First Step."

Boulder Weekly | Michael Casey
"The film's title, The First Step, is a suggestion to an approach to healing hurt communities."

The Moveable Fest | Stephan Saito
“When progress is usually messier as it’s happening than when it’s remembered, the ability of The First Step to engage with the moment that it’s in is invaluable.”

PHIndie | Dan Scully
“The First Step is a story worth telling. Diverse people, whose relationships aren’t typically simpatico, gathering together to produce tangible, permanent change in an area of society that desperately needs it.”

Oregon Artswatch | Marc Mohan
"It’s an impressive and immersive fly-on-the wall look at, as they say, how the sausage gets made...Whether one agrees with his political strategy or not, The First Step is a fascinating look at process and personality in Washington."

Hollywood Chicago | Patrick McDonald
“An interesting and in-depth documentary regarding [Van Jones’] journey to prison reform legislation during the Trump administration."

Film Threat | Alan Ng
“The First Step works because it’s as honest about the state of government as it is passionate about doing so.”

The Playlist | Cory Woodroof
"The First Step engages without patronizing and tries to provide a balanced portrait of Jones and his causes."

Washington Area Film Critics Association | Tim Gordon
“A wonderful film about Van Jones, who finds a group of parents affected by the crack epidemic in South Central L.A. and a group of parents in West Virginia affected by the opioid epidemic, and brings those two together to pass The First Step Act.”

Jon of All Trades Podcast | Jonathan Ekstrom
“A fascinating documentary featuring a cadre of compelling personalities and a multitude of twists in the journey. Prison reform is a complex issue with no easy solutions, and this documentary does a fantastic job of capturing an unusual snapshot in time where an unusual coalition works toward a shared goal.”

Tilt Magazine | Stephen Silver
"This fascinating documentary looks at the work of CNN commentator Van Jones and his push to pass a criminal justice reform bill...It’s a rare documentary that shows the step-by-step shepherding of a piece of legislation."

The Arty Chick | Jill Boniske
“Very timely and engaging.”

Film Festival Today | Christopher Llewellyn Reed
“A wonderful examination of the day-to-day hard work of policy-making.”

Starry Magazine | Jennifer Vintzileos
"Kramer’s attention to capturing scenes are a stark reminder of just how alike we all are, despite who we back politically. Both groups had had their own fair share of heartache and trauma from family members being imprisoned for unfair sentences to loved ones they have physically and metaphorically lost to drugs, gangs, etc. And in their pain, everyone could come together to work towards a positive first step in making change.”

Chlotrudis Film Society | Vicki Oleskey
“A very honest and revealing portrait of Van Jones...Throughout the film we see Jones as a bridge builder. When he brings together a group of community activists from South Central LA with another group from West Virginia to talk about the opioid crisis, it is very moving and powerful.”

The Journal | Greg Fields
‘The First Step,’ illustrates so clearly what we, as a collective, pluralistic society, need — building bridges across the most volatile issues while treating those on the other side with respect, dignity and, ultimately, as fellow citizens rather than adversaries.”

Supicket | Audrey Chapman
“This documentary is absolutely compelling, and it hit so close to home (literally) to see awareness about such imperative issues in West Virginia being spread in such a compassionate yet illuminating way."

Cineaste Magazine Summer 2023 Issue | Reviewed by Elizabeth Walters

Published Interviews & Podcasts

Panel with Van Jones, Brandon Kramer, Douglas Copenhaver, Tylo James, Lonnie Jones
moderated by Axios Justice and Race Reporter Russell Contreras, AFI DOCS
Interview with Van Jones, TAVIS SMILEY PODCAST
GOLDEN GLOBES (Around The World Podcast/ Apple)- February 16, 2023-Interview with Brandon Kramer & Chris Jenkins
‘The First Step’: A former Portlander’s documentary explores the art of the (political) deal, OREGON ARTSWATCH
Interview with Brandon Kramer, FILM SCHOOL RADIO
Interview with Lance Kramer, ABC-KGON Channel 9 - TUCSON
MOVIKARMA-February 13, 2023- Filmmaker Interview.
SELIG FILM NEWS- February 13, 2023- Filmmaker Interview.
IN THE SEATS PODCAST (Apple)- February 21, 2023- Filmmaker Interview.
BIG BLEND RADIO- February 19, 2023- Filmmaker Interview.
SCREEN FISH- February 16, 2023- Filmmaker Interview.
FIND YOUR FILM- February 24, 2023- Filmmaker Interview.
Lance & Brandon Kramer Follow Van Jones’ Fight for Criminal Justice Reform in “The First Step,” WILLAMETTE WEEK
Negotiating a Criminal Justice Bill Across Party Lines (w/ Jessica Jackson), THE NEGOTIATORS PODCAST
All Rise, Cleveland’s new film festival focused on justice and law, looks to inspire change, CLEVELAND.COM
Aloe Blacc Shares ‘Free’ In Solidarity Of Criminal Justice Reform, SPIN
On Air Interview with producer Lance Kramer, KAKE NEWS
Interview with executive producer Christina Arquette, ARKANSAS MONEY & POLITICS
Documenting the First Step toward criminal justice reform with Lance and Brandon Kramer, THE GREAT BATTLEFIELD
Interview with Brandon Kramer and Louis Reed, THE SENTINEL-RECORD
Interview with executive producer Christina Arquette, UALR NPR ARKANSAS PUBLIC RADIO
Discussion on The First Step, Movie Schmovie Podcast
Interview with Brandon Kramer, I LIKE TO MOVIE MOVIE PODCAST
Interview with Brandon Kramer and Pete White, JON OF ALL TRADES PODCAST
Video interview with executive producer Christina Arquette, ABC7 - KATV
Interview with Brandon Kramer, QUIET ON THE SET PODCAST WITH EWAN GRAF
Panel Discussion with Lance Kramer, Noreen McClendon, and Dr. LaShon Sawyer, TOWARDS EMPLOYMENT
Interview with executive producer Christina Arquette, ABOUT YOU MAGAZINE
Interview with Brandon Kramer, BREEZEWAY PRODUCTIONS
Tribeca Film Festival Interview: Brandon Kramer talks The First Step, SHOCKYA!
Interview with Brandon Kramer, THE KATHRYN ZOX SHOW
Interview with Lance Kramer, WSLR PEACE & JUSTICE REPORT
Interview with Lance Kramer, PROJECT NERD
Interview with Brandon and Lance Kramer, BITCH TALK PODCAST
Interview with Brandon Kramer and Louis Reed, MY HARLEM PORTRAITS
Interview with Lance Kramer, Denver Business Journal
Interview with Lance Kramer, Selig Film News