First-time filmmaker Rudy Valdez got extremely personal for his debut documentary, The Sentence.

By Nigel Smith
September 24, 2018 11:53 AM

First-time filmmaker Rudy Valdez gets extremely personal in his debut documentary, The Sentence.

The harrowing film tells the story of his sister Cindy Shank, a mother of three who received a 15-year mandatory sentence for conspiracy charges related to her deceased ex-boyfriend’s crimes — and PEOPLE has the exclusive trailer.

“So basically I lived in the home,” Shank can be heard saying in the preview. “I didn’t buy these drugs. I didn’t sell these drugs. Any crimes that he committed while we lived together, I was charged with.”

“I want to try and tell your story, to try and make something good out of all this,” her brother Valdez says later in the trailer to his sister. “Thank you, brother,” she responds.


Drawing upon hundreds of hours of footage shot by Valdez, the documentary offers a candid look at the consequences of mandatory minimum sentencing. For Valdez, capturing the lives of everyday details and milestones of his sister’s family was his method of coping with the tragedy.

“The more I think about them, the more those memories are slipping away,” Shank says of her children in the trailer.

As teased in the preview, The Sentence partly takes place during the last months of the Obama administration’s clemency initiative, as the family starts to fight for Shank’s release.

The Sentence premieres Oct. 15 on HBO.