(directors: Jairus McLeary/Gethin Aldous; cinematographer: Arturo Santamaria; editor: Amy Foote; cast: Brian, Charles, Chris, Dark Cloud, Kiki; Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Alice Henty, Jairus McLeary, Angela Sostre, Miles McLeary; The Orchard; 2017-UK)
“Intriguing cinema vérité prison documentary that’s set inside a single room at the maximum security Folsom State Prison in Sacramento, California.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous are co-directors of this intriguing cinema vérité prison documentary that’s set inside a single room at the maximum security Folsom State Prison in Sacramento, California. It gives viewers a unique look at prison life as an intense group healing therapy session is taking place over four days between some dangerous inmates and three men volunteer visitors. The outsiders are Charles, a black bartender from south central L.A., whose father, someone he never knew, was a convict; Brian, an anxious and judgmental teacher’s assistant from Chicago; and, also from Chicago, Chris, an indecisive and soft-spoken museum assistant. Some of the inmates include Rick, once a member of the Aryan Brotherhood; Vegas, once a Bloods leader; the beefy Dark Cloud, a gang member of the Native American gang called Skins; and, Kiki, a member of a Pacific Islander prison gang. The unusual program is run by the Inside Circle Foundation. McLeary’s psychologist father James was one of the program’s designers. This fly-on-the-wall documentary gives us a chance to reflect on the value of rehabilitation, in a country where the prison population has grown to enormous proportions. The thought is that maybe programs like this one will make a difference in rehabilitating some of the most vicious felons. This is not an easy film to watch, as it’s filled with raw emotions, screams and tears. It is not suited for everyone. I felt drained after viewing it, not sure if anything will work for the inmates who, anyway, are probably too far gone to return to society. But, I guess, something must be tried to rehabilitate them. A sign of hope is that the inmates are all signed on to keeping the therapy environment safe, as they feel it’s necessary to have a place for them to bare their soul in front of others. Incidentally, the problem of growing up fatherless was the prevalent theme among the inmates.
REVIEWED ON 11/19/2017 GRADE: B- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/