Award-winning film, part of campaign for child protection, available for free

An award-winning documentary produced by a Penn State faculty member that chronicles a father’s transformation into a child activist after the murder of his daughter by a convicted child molester is now available for free on Hulu.

The film, “Jessie’s Dad,” focuses on Mark Lunsford whose daughter Jessica was abducted, assaulted, buried alive and found dead in February 2005. After his daughter’s body was discovered, Lunsford embarked on a journey to pass Jessie’s Law -- which toughens sentencing against sex offenders and requires measures such as publication of their names in local papers and/or online -- around the United States.

Lunsford continues to use the film to boost child protection around the county on the 10th anniversary of his daughter’s murder in Homosassa, Florida. In the past decade, he has convinced 46 states to pass the law. Pennsylvania was the first state after Florida to enact the law 10 years ago.

“Jessie’s Dad” was written, directed and produced by Boaz Dvir, a senior lecturer in the College of Communications at Penn State. The film has won several awards, including Best Documentary at the 2011 ITN Film and New Media Festival and the Direct Cinema Outstanding Documentary Award.

Dvir teaches writing and production in the journalism and film departments. Along with “Jessie’s Dad,” he has served as writer, director and producer of “Discovering Gloria,” which paints the portrait of an average inner-city schoolteacher who becomes a trailblazing innovator and a national model, and “A Wing and a Prayer,” which tells the virtually unknown story of World War II aviators who launched a secret, illegal operation in 1948 to prevent a second Holocaust.

Dvir previously taught writing, storytelling and documentary filmmaking at the University of Florida. He has written for many publications, including Newsday, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Tampa Bay Times, The Miami Herald, the Jerusalem Post, Scripps Howard’s Treasure Coast Newspapers, the Times of Israel and Explore magazine.

Dvir served as editor of the Jacksonville Business Journal and managing editor of the South Florida Business Journal, which are part of Newhouse’s American City Business Journals. For several years, he appeared on “Week in Review” and wrote commentaries for WJCT, Jacksonville’s NPR/PBS station.

Dvir has won six Florida Magazine Association awards and numerous awards from the Florida Press Association.

Dvir received a Lilly Endowment grant from the Religion News Service to research spiritual aspects of the Holocaust. He served as an officer and a military journalist in the Israel Defense Forces, where he gathered vital information during 1991 Gulf War, providing material to foreign correspondents, James Baker’s office and Benjamin Netanyahu.

Last Updated February 18, 2015