Synopsis by Mark Deming
In the early '80s, Steve James was a student at Southern Illinois University who volunteered for the local Big Brother program and served as a mentor for Stephen Dale Fielding (Stevie for short), a troubled 11-year-old boy with unhappy family relationships. Given up by his mother when her husband decided he didn't want him in the house, Stevie was primarily raised by his step-grandmother and had already begun to reveal a stubborn and easily distracted personality when he met James. After he graduated from college, James lost contact with Fielding, but in 1995, after James had gone on to a career as a documentary filmmaker (and won acclaim for his film Hoop Dreams), he was reintroduced to Stevie, only to learn that his life had taken a number of wrong turns. After a number of scrapes with the law and on-going battles with his family, Fielding had been charged with molesting his eight-year-old cousin, and he'd opted for a trial (which could lead to a twenty year prison sentence) rather than receive counseling, due in part to his experiences in a mental hospital. James and his wife (who counsels sex offenders) wanted to offer Stevie whatever help they could, and James opted to make a film about him, hoping to discover where Stevie's life and gone wrong and how his tragic turn of fate could have been prevented. At the same time, James (like many others in Stevie's life) began to wonder what they could have done, and to what degree they let him down, with James torn between his feelings for his friend and his need to portray all sides honestly. Featuring interviews with Fielding, his family, and his friends, the documentary Stevie examines how society's safety net failed to catch one young man before it was too late. Stevie was shown in competition at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival.
child-molestation, forgiveness, foster-home, friendship, hope, juvenile-crime, mentor, moral-conflict, neglect, patience, responsibility, reunion