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Published: Thursday, November 25, 2010, 2:14 p.m.

Forde focus of Belgian film

  • Shawna Forde in a Herald interview from several years ago.

    Herald archives

    Shawna Forde in a Herald interview from several years ago.

Some of you have been asking for news about Shawna Forde, the former Everett woman who is accused of orchestrating the killings of a man and his young daughter in Arivaca, Ariz.

This is a story I plan to continue covering as time allows. Forde is from this place. She's facing a possible death sentence. Even without the Arizona killings, the self-described founder of Minuteman American Defense left a lot of unfinished crime business in Everett before she headed south.

Forde remains locked up in Tucson, her double murder trial now set for January. Separate trials have been ordered for Forde and her two male co-defendants. Lawyers have been sparring over what evidence will be admitted and whether the trial schedule will be followed. Typical stuff.

Meanwhile, the case is getting attention internationally. A nearly hour-long documentary film, "A cycle of fences," aired earlier this month on Belgian television and soon may be screened at film festivals in the U.S.

Sebastien Wielemans, a director from Brussels, met Forde and briefly filmed her during a 2008 visit to Arizona. She talked with him about Minutemen and grunge rock, claiming an expert's grasp of border security issues as well as connections to Kurt Cobain, the Nirvana front man who committed suicide in Seattle in 1994. Wielemans was e-mailing with Forde about more interviews when she was charged with the Arivaca killings. Her jailhouse letters to Wielemans provide the spine of his film.

Why "A cycle of fences?"

"This is a title with lots of symbolic meanings," Wielemans said in an e-mail. "It seems that Shawna, according to most of the people I met, has been involved in several bad situations. Continuously. As if she was inside a vicious cycle. Fences? Well, most of her story speaks about fences: the border, the jail, the difficulties of communication inside her own family. But besides that, everyone has to find his proper sense, or explanation."

I screened an English-language version of the film this week. Much of the camera work is beautiful, and in places that matter, unflinching about truth. Wielemans doesn't appear to judge Forde nor the strength of the case. Instead, he studies the people connected to her by blood, friendship, political ideology and something that sure sounds like self promotion. The profiles that emerge are by turns sad and disturbing. By sad, I mean interviews with Forde's family, who clearly are suffering over their connection to this case. By disturbing, I mean footage of Forde supporter Laine Lawless, filmed blasting away at gun range targets shaped like people and pronouncing it "therapy."

The killings in Arivaca are why Belgians are now watching a documentary about Shawna Forde. Here's the detail from court papers that haunts me the most: the gunman was so close when 9-year-old Brisenia Flores was shot that the gun barrel touched the child's cheek.

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