Coming to theatres today, Friday, November 4: THE PRISON IN TWELVE LANDSCAPES
Brett Story’s meditation on the impact of the prison system across America premiered at True/False this year. Additional screenings included Hot Docs, Art of the Real, Camden, Reykjavik, Ann Arbor, DOXA, and New Orleans, among other events.
The United States leads the world in mass incarceration, making the criminal justice system a sadly perennial topic for documentary filmmakers. Story’s project takes a distinctly different approach in her consideration of the prison-industrial complex – chiefly, she never shows a prison on camera or enters into a cell. Instead, the film offers a series of vignettes demonstrating the less visible signs of our society’s penchant for criminalization and punishment and the consequences for individuals, communities, families, and economies. Stories range from a former prisoner turned park chess player and a man who has developed a cottage industry in supplying prison-approved goods for sale to the family members of the incarcerated, to a former Kentucky coal town now dependent on a prison for jobs and an African American woman who demonstrates racially-motivated policing through her experience of serving two weeks in prison for a minor trashcan violation on her own property. While diffuse in its scope by design, the film effectively builds to a damning indictment of the systemic injustices of policies in dire need of a radical overhaul.