Fiscal Sponsorship Project

The Holly

Award-winning journalist Julian Rubinstein turns his lens on the city in which he grew up, capturing an unforgettable story from inside one of Denver’s legendary gang communities. The film follows the high profile shooting case of anti-gang activist Terrance Roberts, who shocked Denver and made national news when he shot a young gang member at his own peace rally. With rare access to key players—including active gang members, Roberts’s public defender, community leaders, elected officials, and law enforcement—the film becomes an unexpected window into the machinations behind the gang war in a historic community that was once the center of the city’s civil rights movement. 
The film was made during the seven years of reporting that formed the basis of the book, The Holly: Five Bullets, One Gun and the Struggle to Save an American Neighborhood, which was published in 2021. The book was a New York Times “Editors’ Choice,” a Tattered Cover Top Ten Books of 2021 Pick, and a Booklist Best Books of 2021 selection.

Gang violence kills more people every year than all mass shootings and military operations combined, yet this decades-long war in the shadows of America’s cities is not well understood, and is worsening. This film illuminates the issues that have enabled this invisible war to continue, and the challenges facing activists trying to stop it. 

Co Producer: Tony Hardmon

Producers: Dia Sokol Savage, Sarah Dowland, donnie l. betts

About the Director

Julian Rubinstein, who grew up in Denver, moved back to the city for this project. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Rolling Stone and others. His first book, Ballad of the Whiskey Robber was a New York Times “Editors Choice” and a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Non Fiction. His new book, The Holly, will be published by FSG and released in conjunction with the film. 

He has been an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of Journalism, from which he graduated. He is a Visiting Professor of the Practice in Documentary Journalism at the University of Denver, and affiliated faculty at the school’s Department of Media, Film and Journalism Studies.

Genre: Social Justice, True Crime, Current Events

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Denver Film