I learn best from documentaries. The visuals and narratives help me remember the content, analysis, and insights, particularly when the content is intense or engaging with critical social issues. In the next few days, I will post a variety of documentaries about the relationship between prisons, jails, and abolishing the carceral society. This first film tells intersecting stories about prison and incarceration without ever showing a penitentiary.
The Prison in Twelve Landscapes (90 min), produced and directed by Brett Story.
"A film about the prison and its life in the American Landscape. More people are imprisoned in the United States at this moment than in any other time or place in history, yet the prison itself has never felt further away or more out of sight. The Prison in Twelve Landscapes is a film about the prison in which we never see a penitentiary. Instead, the film unfolds as a cinematic journey through a series of landscapes across the USA where prisons do work and affect lives, from a California mountainside where female prisoners fight raging wildfires, to a Bronx warehouse full of goods destined for the state correctional system, to an Appalachian coal town betting its future on the promise of prison jobs."
Check out the trailer here. Other team members include Maya Bankovic, Director of Photography, Avrïl Jacobson, Editor; Lori Chodos, Associate Producer; Olivier Alary, Composer; Simon Gervais, Sound Design; and Ian Reynolds, Sound Recordings.
Brett Story's full director's statement provides valuable insights into the filmmaker's intentions.
"Prisons appear to most of us only in endless Hollywood depictions and reality television, making incarceration at once invisible and exceedingly familiar at the same time. Even Googling the address of a penitentiary results in a vast blank space on the map. It is as if prisons, and the people inside them, have been disappeared. As a filmmaker with a geographer's eye, I spend a lot of time considering the relationship between where we are, what we see, and how we think. While films that bring us inside penitentiaries to convey the humanity of those incarcerated can have important stories to tell, I can't help but feel the limitations of a cinema whose highest aspiration is simply that of evoking sympathy. I want the imagery to do more, and wonder if seeing prisons differently might be key to thinking about prisons differently."