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 gentrifying community that was once the center of the city’s civil rights movement. 
The film was made during the seven years of reporting for 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.

Youth and 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 rarely seen issues that have enabled this invisible war to continue, and the challenges facing activists trying to stop it. 

The film is supported by the Colorado Film, Television and Media office, Denver Film, Doc Society, Catapult Film Fund, IFP, Edit Center, and others.

Executive Producers: Adam McKay, Lana Garland, Damon Davis, Tony Hardmon, Trygve Myhren, Kayvan Khalatbari, K. Nicole Robinson Asarch and Chad Asarch

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

About the Director

Julian Rubinstein grew up in Denver and 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, was published in 2021 and called “a shattering piece of investigative journalism involving street gangs, race relations, and law enforcement.” It was also named a New York Times Editors’ Choice.

He has been an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of Journalism, from which he graduated. He is currently Visiting Professor of the Practice in Documentary Journalism at the University of Denver, and affiliated faculty at the school’s Interdisciplinary Research Institute for the Study of (in)Equality (IRISE.) For more, see:

Genre: Social Justice, True Crime, Current Events

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