120 Years tells the story of Scott Lewis, a citizen of New Haven, Connecticut who was sentenced to life in prison for a crime he never committed. Over the course of two decades, Lewis built his case from behind bars, poring over legal texts, writing to attorneys, and holding out hope that one day he might walk free. This story traces the ramifications of his wrongful conviction on a family that lost 20 precious years together, on a community shaken by corruption, and on an exonerated man desperately making up for lost time. Through the lens of Scott Lewis' story, 120 Years offers a glimpse into the lives of the individuals our criminal justice system leaves behind—and the extraordinary fight it takes to reverse their fates.
120 YEARS began with a column in the local paper. From behind the creased pages of the New Haven Register, I scanned the details of the most recent budget proposal for the city – dollars allocated to New Haven Schools, New Haven Police Department, New Haven Parks and Recreation. At the bottom of the list, I found a recipient I didn’t expect: Scott Lewis.
This seemed weird.
A couple minutes of research revealed that this compensation was really restitution – the city’s attempt to make up for the 20 years Scott spent behind bars as a result of a wrongful conviction. My first conversation with Scott exposed even more scathing details: a cocaine-dealing detective, a disregarded FBI report, years of pro se legal work, a serendipitous love story, and a wrongful sentence of 120 years.
Scott’s story compelled me to question my otherwise unperturbed perception that the criminal justice system always catches the bad guy. In far too many ways, Scott’s story is not an exception – he was the victim of entrenched structures of race and class, was targeted by biased police officers, and didn’t have the means to hire an Ivy League lawyer.
In one key way, however, Scott’s story is exceptional: He got out. The other 99% of wrongfully convicted inmates – a group estimated to number more than 250,000 – cannot boast a fortune as bright. It was only by learning the law, building a case from inside his prison cell, and refusing to succumb to despair that Scott was able to finally realize the maxim by which he lived: the truth must prevail. 120 YEARS is the story of how it did – and, for 20 years, how it didn’t.
News and Reviews
“Film Documents Story of New Haven Man Framed for Felony Double Murder”
“After 19 Years Of Wrongful Imprisonment, New Haven Man’s Story Told In New Documentary”
“Fighting for Freedom, Finding Forgiveness”
“Geared Towards the Truth”
“The Scott Lewis Story Hits The Screen”
“Student-Made Documentary Screening Draws Hundreds”
“With ‘120 Years,’ Scott Lewis’ Story Revisited”
Co-Director, DP, Editor
Matt Nadel is a film director and editor from South Florida. His recent work, including the short film Runaway, has been showcased by New York Times OpDocs, the Rhode Island International Film Festival, and the Los Angeles Cinefest. Matt is currently studying at Yale University and was named a Burt Reynolds Scholar in Film and a National YoungArts Winner in Cinematic Arts. Matt also works with nonprofit organizations focused on immigration, education, and LGBTQ+ rights.
Co-Director, DP, Editor
Lukas Cox is a writer/director and cinematographer from Amherst, MA, currently completing his senior year at Yale University. His extensive work in documentary film encompasses a series of projects with director Joshua Rofé and producer Jordan Peele, most recently including the upcoming Amazon docuseries Lorena. His work has been showcased at the Traverse City Film Festival and the Coolidge Corner Theatre Foundation. He is a recipient of the Joseph Maddy Award in Filmmaking from the Interlochen Center for the Arts.
Keera Annamaneni is a junior at Yale, where she studies political science and human rights. She is the editor-in-chief of The Politic, Yale’s award-winning political and cultural publication. She has worked as a freelance writer for Forbes, reporting on film and entertainment. Keera is also a Yale Law School Liman Fellow and a Dwight Hall Urban Fellow and has worked for the New Haven Federal Defenders, Bronx Defenders, the State Department, Yale Law School’s Lowenstein clinic, and UN Women.