WHY THIS FILM, THIS STORY?
From Cassy's View:
To me, the word ‘unconditional’ is so powerful and has such deep meaning. For a long time, I didn’t consider myself worthy of love or forgiveness. I didn’t know the power of unconditional love for myself. The therapeutic community at La Vista helped me develop a practice of looking at myself with complete honesty and acceptance, to think about my decisions and actions in a way that accepts responsibilities for good and bad but without shame. I learned to face my trauma and see myself not just as a product of what happened to me, not just as an addict or a person who has been in prison, but as someone who is working hard every day to improve herself, to dig deep and create the life I want.
Then there is the unending, unconditional love I receive from my family--even when I let them down--especially when I let them down. I know my recovery depends solely on my choices and actions, but it also depends a lot on family support. They never give up on love and possibility and that is so important.
From Mel's View:
I wanted to be a part of this film because I wanted to keep supporting Cassy in any way I could. It was hard talking about everything at first. But now that the film is done, I see that making it was such a positive thing for Cass and us; telling her story has been a way to reinforce growth and understanding.
Anyone going through addiction, incarceration, and the justice system--whether personally or as a family member--can learn from this film, to see that loving someone who is living with addiction, or who is in prison is a journey you just can’t give up on. No matter what the circumstances are, all people hurt, all of us have souls and hearts that need to be cared for. I hope this film can help others who are on this journey.
From Sherree's View:
Being a part of this film has meant that Cassy’s story can get out there. I think the film shows so many things, like how in a small town, someone living with addiction can just be thought of as guilty, as bad. But that’s not how to look at the disease, the issues. The justice system has problems for sure. But it helped for Cass, and us. She went to prison but had a unique chance for therapy and we were able to see her so often. Both of those things really made a difference.
It is so difficult for convicted felons, especially women, when they get out of prison, to make connections, to see families and loved ones, to meet all kinds of crazy deadlines and guidelines. If they don’t have family to support them, or real therapy for their mental health, then I think there’s no way they can make it. I hope this film will let other families who are dealing with similar issues with a loved one know that they all have a chance, as long as family is there.
"I HOPE VIEWERS OF UNCONDITIONAL WILL SEE THAT WE ARE ALWAYS CREATING THE LIFE WE WANT. RECOVERY AND CHANGE ARE FOR ALL OF US, AT ANY TIME. DIG DEEP. LOVE YOURSELF AND OTHERS UNCONDITIONALLY, NO MATTER WHAT"
- Cassy Bustos
MEET THE FILMMAKERS
Director • Executive Producer • Videographer
BERET E. STRONG
Director • Videographer
JOHN B. TWEEDY
Editor • Videographer
Director • Executive Producer • Videographer
Since entering the field of documentary filmmaking 2012, Gayle (she/hers) has directed and produced award-wining films about young women refugees in Uganda, a community living off the grid on a wolf refuge in southern Colorado, and a re-entry program for women and men who were previously incarcerated. She co-founded Needle&Frame, a filmmaking and arts collective that builds solidarity, unites communities and inspires courageous action toward positive social transformation. The most recent project is Stronger than Coffee (Más que un Café), a series of short documentary participatory films written, directed and filmed by smallholder women coffee producers in Costa Rica.
Gayle uses photography, video and mixed-media to explore how a language of artmaking resides in and arises from an inner world of imagination and memory. Between 2020- 2021 Gayle created RELISH | relinquish, a collaborative, multimedia, interpretive exhibit focused on one woman’s experience living with late-stage Alzheimer’s dementia, installed and exhibited at the Dana L. Wiley Gallery in Dayton, OH.
Beret E. Strong
Director • Videographer
Beret E. Strong, Ph.D., M.F.A., Director, Producer, and Videographer, has been making documentary films since 1995 with John Tweedy, with whom she owns Landlocked Films. She has been collaborating with Gayle Nosal and Nee Nee Productions since 2014. Her films have shown on PBS stations across the U.S. and Canada, and won CINE Golden Eagles, the National Association of Film and Digital Media Artists' Insight Award for Excellence, and a nomination for an IDA/ABC News Videosource Award.
Beret's films have screened at many festivals, including Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, Yamagata International Film Festival, the Boulder International Film Festival, Denver International Film Festival, and the Pan African Film Festival. Her and John Tweedy's most recent film, This is [Not] Who We Are, is about the history of Boulder, Colorado and the experiences of its resilient Black community. Beret is also a researcher, writer, and educator.
John B. Tweedy
Editor • Videographer
John has been directing, producing, and editing films with Beret E. Strong and Landlocked Films since 1999. He directed Streams of Gold, about gold mining in an Ecuadorean valley over a 100-year span, broadcast nationally on Free Speech TV; Penny and Red, about Penny Chenery and the thoroughbred racehorse Secretariat, broadcast on PBS stations nationwide; and edited most of Landlocked Films’ other prize-winning documentaries. His filmography includes work on climate science, law and equity issues, cultural competency, disability, and education. John is also a lawyer, mediator and writer.
Zoe Lyttle (she/they), originally from the Nashville, Tennessee area, is a New York City-based animator and filmmaker. Their debut film, Shots, has made them a student Academy Awards finalist and an international award-winning filmmaker and animator. Currently, they are working as a full-time animator and artists, primarily focusing on educational non-fiction and documentary work. Using the art of animation, they love to focus on real human issues and stories, and they want their work to speak as an extension of what they care about. To see their work, please visit https://www.ossizoe-art.com/
Gayle believes in a media landscape that is inclusive, just, and ethical, centering community wisdom and intention to create films and other artforms that educate, entertain, and inspire. She produces documentaries and other multi-media, visual storytelling projects about the lives of underrepresented people and issues in our world today. In 2015, as a volunteer for a dance program at LaVista Correctional Center for Women in Pueblo, CO, Gayle met Cassy. Cassy’s determination to explore how movement can support emotional release, and her expressed desire to create a new way of being was palpable and dynamic. When Cassy left LVCC, their paths crossed through dance and Gayle was inspired to know more about what life after incarceration would be for Cassy. What it would take for Cassy to become and remain substance free, to return to her family and re-new her commitment to the future she envisioned. Cassy decided to co-create a film about her experience with substance abuse, trauma, the justice system and re-entry from prison. Her family, always supportive of Cassy, told their stories too. Whether it’s love, support, self-acceptance or surrender, making this film reminds Gayle that “unconditional” is a life practice that benefits everyone’s well-being. Gayle hopes the film, Unconditional, reminds every one of the power of never giving up.
- Gayle Nosal, Director
Beret cares about amplifying people’s voices, social justice and equity, the global community, and the health of our planet. Beret was moved to collaborate with Gayle Nosal on making Unconditional after meeting Cassy Bustos years ago and experiencing how vulnerable, open, and brave Cassy is about sharing her story. She learned about Cassy and her family's efforts to help Cassy recover from life traumas, including drug and alcohol dependency and years of incarceration. Beret was struck by how in prison, Cassy got to choose between regular prison jobs, such as "dish pit", and intensive, painful therapy that helped her daily "dig a little deeper" into her pain and personal issues so that she could become emotionally healthy and substance-free. It has been a privilege to witness Cassy's recovery and to watch her create her own new nuclear family. That Cassy is now helping other women recover from their traumas by running a re-entry house feels very in keeping with the person Cassy is. Cassy's loving parents are another reason Beret chose to help make Unconditional; she was moved by their bravery, candor, and loyalty to their daughter. Beret’s wish is that Unconditional will encourage individuals and their families, giving them hope for the future.
- Beret E. Strong, Director