What happens when a liberal public defender represents right-wing January 6th rioters? Public Defender takes on America’s epidemic of division and misinformation with humanity and comic relief, modeling how to restore trust and accountability one conversation at a time.

Heather Shaner, a feisty, blue-haired defense attorney in Washington, DC, has spent over 40 years representing people who can’t afford a lawyer. But her empathy hits a limit when a violent mob supporting outgoing President Donald Trump storms the U.S. Capitol.

She is assigned to represent Jack Griffith, a social media influencer, and Annie Howell, a single mother and painter. As Heather gets to know her clients, she discovers Jack and Annie were deceived by misinformation and thought they’d joined a righteous defense of democracy, not an authoritarian wave.

Public Defender explores the delicate state of U.S. democracy, the forces threatening to tear it apart, and the people dedicated to protecting it. When trust is lost amidst a growing political divide, the unlikely bonds between Heather and her clients reveal how people can rise above the fray to find each other’s humanity.

"Once you can see somebody as a human being, you can listen to them and once you listen to them, you can feel their pain, the remorse, what they want for the future." Heather Shaner   Public Defender


Pulitzer Center
Mountainfilm Commitment Grant


Directed and Written by:
Andrea Kalin

Produced by:
Andrea Kalin, p.g.a.
Ethan Oser

Kate Woodsome
Janice Engel

Director of Photography:
Ethan Oser

Thomas Niles