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Review: The Final Gift: A documentary film

Nov 13, 2012

The Final Gift: A Documentary Film was produced by Therese and Doug Bartholomew and is distributed through 1936 Productions and SansPerf Productions. Running time is 1 hour and 15 minutes. The DVD is available for purchase online

Reviewed by Lynette Parker

The Final Gift-- A Documentary Film offers an intimate look into one woman’s journey of healing following the violent death of her brother. Therese Bartholemew’s brother, Steve, died after being shot in an altercation at a club. This film results from her attempt to understand what happened and its impact on their family. It chronicles their emotions and responses from receiving the first phone call to the sentencing to Therese’s meeting with the offender. 

Several of the family members share their disbelief, deep grief, and depression after the crime. Their comments on “forgiveness” illustrate the struggle that many victims face with the concept. Each family member interviewed had a different view -- some forgave, others couldn’t, and at least one said it would disrespect Steve to forgive the offender. In preparing for the face-to-face meeting with the offender, Therese describes “forgiveness” as being owned by the victim and that was very empowering. 

For Therese, the journey toward understanding included a Masters of Science in Criminal Justice as a way of making sense of the reasons for or underlying factors to crime as well as the criminal justice response. A discussion on restorative justice offers stark observations on how the system does not serve the needs of victims, offenders, or the community. It is a call for something else, a justice response that sees the humanity in each person and provides a pathway for restoration. 

The film’s final segment chronicles Therese’s journey to victim offender dialogue with the man who killed her brother. Representatives from the South Carolina Victim Assistance Network discuss the process and the preparation needs for both victims and prisoners. Therese is seen entering the prison and meeting the offender. Their conversation is honest with Therese asking questions about how the offender saw his actions and how his behaviour will be different upon release from prison. In describing his reasons for agreeing to meet with Therese, the offender talks about his concern for her family as well as Steve’s children. He also talks about his own life circumstances and how he wished he could change the events of that night in 2003. 

Throughout the video, we see clips from Therese’s video diary as she shares various emotions stemming from Steve’s death. The morning after the meeting in the prison, she describes feeling good but being emotionally, physically and mentally drained. In later comments, she describes leaving the prison with a feeling of liberation as if a weight had been removed from her shoulders.

The Final Gift provides a real look at the many emotions surrounding crime and loss as well as the difficult journey of coming into a restorative process. It offers valuable insights for anyone interested in working with victims, criminal justice reform, and facilitating restorative processes. 

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Cathy Smith
Cathy Smith says:
Nov 13, 2012 07:20 PM

Thank you for your review of Therese Bartholomew's film, The Final Gift. I have seen this film shown at two different churches, with Therese there for a follow-up Q&A. Both times, the audiences were deeply moved by the film, everybody stayed for the Q&A, and the questions people asked showed their interest in her experience as well as in the concept of restorative justice. Audience members included students in criminal justice, church members and others. In both Q&As it became clear that several audience members had lost a loved one. I recommend showing Therese's film to groups and, if possible, having her be present for a Q&A.

Cathyji says:
Jul 12, 2013 01:15 AM

I have not yet watched the documentary nor read the book. But reading what happened to your brother and your personal process hit home for me. My brother was killed and the offender was his self the drugs and drug dealers and the person who sexually abused him for five years as a child of which he told no one until his first attempt at kicking heroin at the age of 17 years old. I sat with this question. How do I face his offender when there is no one to face. I will never find the drug dealers who sold him drugs from the time he was 16 until he was 38 years old and final gained the true desire to recover. How do I face his perpetrator when our family system still carries the secret and no one will talk openly about it because as a child he too was a victim of one of several brother that sexually abused many children in our family system. I write this not as a victim I write this as a woman driven to tell "our story" to lend hope and healing to others. To be a voice for those of us struggling still with family loss, loss of a childhood, buried secrets. Our family system was full of victims and offenders. We offend ourselves we offend others we offend communities but when it comes to overdose death; death by suicide due to addiction; mental and spiritual death of a spirit; where does one go to restore relationships...Such thought provoking questions...I am truly sorry for your loss. I too had a brother that after 8 years of recovery went back out and was arrested and because he was afraid of going back to prison because his wife and son and step children walked away from him, he used as much as he could one rainy night fell asleep at the wheel and ran into a telephone poll killing himself instantly. In a blink of an eye his life was over as was your brothers...and for what! Was it there time? Are we all ordained to die and have this predestined format of what it will look like? We will only know when we die and go back to wherever we came from. But until then I believe that it is our ordained duty to support individuals, families, communities, by however we are called to do so. We all do our part and it does not matter if we do it by healing ourselves to become better people, or we do it in great ways, the point is that we need to make efforts to heal and support whenever and wherever we can in order to raise the consciousness of healing the masses. My tag line is this: "Healing Ourselves Heals Humanity"...This I believe is true...Sincerely, Cathleen D Greer Gonzales (nickname Cathyji)...

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