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WIHEA Seminar: An online screening of a film on RJ 'Circles' with live talk with filmmaker Cassidy Friedman and the central character, Eric Butler

This event took place on Thursday, 22 July 2021, 3-5.30pm (via Microsoft Teams).

The event showed the Circles documentary and then presented an after-talk with the central character, Eric Butler, and the film director, Cassidy Friedman, who discussed the film, their relationship and their experience of using restorative justice in an education setting.

Eric Butler, a Hurricane Katrina survivor and pioneer of the restorative justice movement, relocates and finds work at Oakland, California, high school, enforcing his no-nonsense approach to counselling vulnerable Black and Latino teenagers. Shot over two years, the film follows Butler's impassioned efforts to nurture troubled youth and keep them in school, fighting racial discrimination by replacing snap suspensions and expulsions with gritty, intimate and honest mentoring.

But when his teenage son is arrested and beaten in jail, he begins to question his methods and ability - not just as a teacher, but also as a father. With incredible access, 'Circles' is an inspirational portrait of a father desperate to provide his son with the leadership and compassion he never received from his own.

See the trailer on for 'Circles' on Vimeo

  • Winner Best Documentary Covellite International Film Festival;
  • Winner Best Documentary Huntington Beach Film Festival;
  • Winner Best Documentary Feature Nominee Nashville Film Festival;
  • Winner Documentary Jury Award
  • Special Mention Milwaukee Film Festival

Learn more at


Cassidy Friedman

picture of Cassidy Friedman, director of the movie 'Circle'

Stories Matter Media’s founder and director, Cassidy Friedman’s films have been called "powerful" by Mother Jones, "must-see" by The Mercury News, and "an audience favorite" by SF Chronicle. Our award-winning documentaries have premiered at festivals like Hot Docs, Cinequest, and Nashville and are widely available through our distributors, Lionsgate and Indican Pictures.

He produced the documentary feature, Voices Beyond the Wall (2017), with Executive Producer James Franco, an Official Selection of the Miami International Film Festival; Winner of the Interfaith Award for Best Documentary at the St. Louis International Film Festival and Winner of the Frank Little Award for Self-Sacrifice and Social Change at Covellite International Film Festival, a coming-of-age story of girls in Honduras’ only orphanage for girls (distributed by Vision Video).

Cassidy directed the docuseries, Detroit Rising (2020), with Producer Kerra Bolton, a columnist at CNN, which won Best Web Series at Cyrus International Film Festival, and received Special Mention for Best Documentary at the Venice Shorts Film Festival.

Learn more.

Eric Butler

Eric Butler picture

Eric Butler believes in the power of relationship building as a healing practice. An educator and activist, Eric's ability to overcome life's hurdles propels him to make a difference in the lives of young people across the U.S. and beyond.

Eric began his career as a domestic violence counselor in New Orleans. After surviving Hurricane Katrina and relocating to Oakland, California, Eric successfully facilitated Grief Circles in response to homicide and extreme violence in area schools as a part of Catholic Charities’ crisis response program. He also worked as a lead mediator with Youth Uprising, where he mediated conflicts on the ground in Oakland neighborhoods and schools. Eric is recognized for his impactful restorative justice work with youth in West Oakland as the School Coordinator at Bunche High School with Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY). He went on to found the “Talking Peace” model of Restorative Justice, a set of practices and philosophy aimed at building relationships through shared values.

Learn more.


'Superb... Exceptional... Must-see. An intimate, absorbing documentary that grabs your attention and never lets go.' - San Hose Mercury News

'Circles puts the lens on the dire need for juvenile justice reform, with one family at the center.' - NPR

'Circles can bring people together to invoke change.' - The Oxford Eagle

'Circles harnesses the power of restorative justice in schools.' - San Francisco Chronicle

'Circles exposes the raw human reality of life.' - Terry O'Connell, Restorative Justice Pioneer, Australia

'Circles leaves us with a new set of eyes on how we restore justice in our schools and community.' - Jumoke Hinton Hodge, OUSD Board of Education Vice President

More information

Eric Butler and Talking Peace - Eric and his team at Talking Peace are available to train, coach, and facilitate with your organization. The team at Talking Peace will work with you to develop a plan specific to your community with the goal to create sustainable, ground led change towards relationships and harm reduction. Please contact us to learn more!

Bring Restorative Justice To Life Through Film - CIRCLES and DETROIT RISING show restorative practices in action in a variety of settings. Alongside conversations with our speakers and curriculum guides, our films offer a model for how we can reshape our society through understanding and healing from harm. If you work for an organization that could benefit from a screening, our curriculum guides, and discussions, please consider purchasing an educational license!


‘CIRCLES’ FILM (81 minutes duration)

*** Please email Dr Jane Bryan ( for the Film link and password ***

TRIGGER WARNING: The film contains descriptions of sexual harm and gun deaths

More info:

The Cycle of Punitive Justice Starts in Schools. Eric Butler Is Showing Kids and Teachers How to Break It.