In this remarkable documentary, filmmaker Brett Story excavates the often-unseen links and connections that prisons – and our system of mass incarceration – have on communities and industries all around us; from a blazing California mountainside where female prisoners fight raging wildfires to a Bronx warehouse that specializes in prison-approved care packages to an Appalachian coal town betting its future on the promise of new prison jobs to the street where Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson (and to the nearby St. Louis County, where African-Americans are still fending off police harassment, but of a different form). THE PRISON IN TWELVE LANDSCAPES is a film about our criminal justice system in which we never see a penitentiary.
Has some moments of lucidity but they are rare. The remainder is a meandering jaunt through what feels suspiciously like the retelling of someone’s odd dream with all of the associated nonsense. Such as the 30 minutes of cheerleading Quicken’s corporate headquarters and oh yeah maybe 30 seconds about how they really cleaned up that area of the city. Like most of the rest of the “environments” it has nothing at all to do with any prison landscape anywhere. Entire sections feel untethered from the stated theme drawing no obvious connection to the many horrors of the prison machine this “land of the free” has birthed. Where there were associations they failed to drive the points hard enough to leave a mark, to dig below the skin, to fuel change. Complete waste of time and no not at all ballsy.
I'm a doc filmmaker myself and was thoroughly impressed with the both the subjects the filmmaker found and chose to include in this film as well as the storytelling technique. It's one I haven't seen before, yet was highly absorbing and effective. If it reminds me of anything, it's the cinema verite docs of the 60s and 70s. In so keeping, there is not a single "expert" talking head interview to be found anywhere in the film, hence my "ballsy" title to this review. Bravo.
Only reviews of the once prisoned now free carry humans should rate this vid.