It is not easy to capture the details, personal details, and love story of Jonathan Irons’ fight against injustice with the help of Maya Moore. Rudy Valdez, a documentary filmmaker and award winner, has accomplished this feat with “Breakaway”, his ESPN 30 for 30-documentary.
Valdez and the couple joined “Good Morning America” Tuesday to discuss more about the story and how they hope that this new lens will help them achieve positive change.
Moore received the Arthur Ashe Award of Courage for Courage on Saturday at the ESPYs for her work in criminal justice reform. She said that this powerful story will resonate with many people.
She said, “I believe it’s such an emotional story, and part my desire to share it was because I felt like people could find themselves in this story.” “Whether people are connecting with Jonathan’s fight or his struggle, or if they are also athletes like me, or just relating about my family members, you can find yourself within this story. I hope it can be encouraging for people from all walks.
Irons, then 16, was tried and convicted by an all-white jury as an adult for the burglary of Stanley Stotler’s home and the shooting. Irons claimed that he was mistakenly identified during the lineup, and maintained his innocence while in prison.
Irons was convicted in Missouri after years of struggle. A Missouri judge overturned his conviction in March 2020. He stated that there were issues with the investigation and trial, including the fingerprint report that would have proved Irons innocence. This report was not handed over to his defense team.
The Emmy Award-winning director was close to Moore and Irons’ stories, through his previous film “The Sentence,” in which he focused on Valdez’s struggle to release his sister from prison.
Valdez stated that his first film was “the foundation of who I am as storyteller.” “I wanted to tell a very personal story about the human experience of being in prison for a long time. It’s also what it does for the community and the families that are left behind.
He stated that he learned a lot from the experience and used it to tell Irons’ story for “Breakaway”.
He said, “I instantly wanted to get beyond the headline — and not to sidestep how amazing and legendary a Maya basketball player is.” I knew there was something in the corner of that headline. This film is about a human being believing that another human being is possible.
He revealed more details about the couple who were married in 2020 during the pandemic. Valdez stated that he discovered “this agency — these people, this family, that are heroes in their own stories.”
“I wanted that version of the story to tell because I believe that the hearts and minds of people are what’s going help change these laws, help change peoples’ perspectives on incarceration, people who are incarcerated, and families of those incarcerated. So I feel very lucky to have been able tell this story,” said the filmmaker.
Irons shared his feelings about the emotions he has felt since escaping prison, marrying Moore, and beginning a new life.
He said, “It’s almost like being awakened or returning to life after nearly living in a frozen world.” “Coming out in the society and being embraced by love and goodness, just people wanting to encourage and check on my progress. It is important. It is important for all prisoners who come out of prison, and those wrongly convicted.
Irons said he doesn’t feel the stigma associated with this transition and praised his wife for her unwavering support.
Irons stated, “I’m so thankful to be married Maya. She’s been instrumental to my transition and just helping to me understand the world.”