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SHAKESPEARE BEHIND BARS

A film by Hank Rogerson and Jilann Spitzmiller

United States, 2005, Color, 93 minutes

   
::  Digibeta: $350 | Beta SP / DV Cam: $300 | DVD: $250
::  DVD Purchase (with public performance license): $200
::  watch the trailer
::  pressmaterial / photographs to download
   
 
SHAKESPEARE BEHIND BARS is an unexpectedly delightful documentary that follows the casting, rehearsal, and presentation of Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest, by convicted felons inside Kentucky’s Luther Luckett Correctional Complex. Winner of eight film festival awards, SHAKESPEARE BEHIND BARS smashes many of our long held notions about prisoners and criminals as we watch these remarkably unique actors prepare. Ultimately, we get to see the human psyche unfold in all of its complexities, as these men, ostracized from society, reveal their kindness, generosity and faith. In the process, we accompany them as they discover the power of truth, forgiveness and transformation.

“A remarkable, moving experience. Surprising and satisfying. The film poses tough questions about the nature of forgiveness [with] a generosity of spirit. “
-- James Greenberg, Hollywood Reporter

Marking their seventh year as an acting ensemble, the inmates cast themselves according to their lives, and in relation to the crimes for which they were convicted. Just as in Shakespeare's day, men play all the female roles. They swear that the roles "pick them", and this proves to be an uncanny truth, as many of the men experience powerful epiphanies while exploring their characters. Twice a week, the inmates work with volunteer director Curt Tofteland, who pushes them to find their own truth within their roles in The Tempest, a play fittingly about forgiveness.

Striking parallels arise between actor and inmate, the text and their lives. On the surface level, the men rehearse with Tofteland, alone in their cells, or with each other on the yard. They experiment with different ways to deliver lines and gestures - how to change the meaning of a scene with one subtle stroke. On a deeper level, this constant searching within a character mirrors the constant search within the men themselves to find meaning in their past actions and present lives. The film shows men who are, in some ways, stuck in time, constantly replaying the text and gestures of their own crimes, wondering what subtle stroke would have changed their fate. But it also shows these men searching deeply to discover the reasons that they committed murder, rape, or robbery, and trying to come to terms and move forward.

SHAKESPEARE BEHIND BARS does not glorify these men or excuse their crimes, but rather attempts to take a more humane look at them as human beings, not merely felons. Over the course of the year and the film, we see these men changed - enriched, challenged, awakened, and fulfilled.

"Profoundly moving. Any minute of this documentary packs more punch than the entirety of most triumph-of-the-human-spirit blockbusters."
-- Jan Stuart, Newsday

"Riveting. The timelessness and eternal relevance of Shakespeare is once again proved in the most unlikely of settings with the most unlikely of players. Truly moving."
-- David Noh, Film Journal

"Fascinationg. A one-of a-kind look at a world most of us never have to deal with."
-- Jeffrey Lyons, NBC's Reel Talk

"**** Extraordinary. Thrilling to watch." -- Ken Fox, TV Guide.com

"Powerful. Ingenious." -- Matt Singer, Village Voice

"Marvel at the transformative power of art. Find freedom in performance and release in words." -- Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times

"Uplifting. Gives hope that forgiveness and redemption are possible."
-- Jami Bernard, NY Daily News

Documentary Competition – Sundance Film Festival
Official Selection – Edinburgh Film Festival
Special Jury Prize – Independent Film Festival of Boston
Director’s Choice Award – Bluegrass Film Festival
Best of Show – Bend Film Festival
Audience Award – Orinda Film Festival
Best Feature Film – River’s Edge Film Festival
Crystal Heart Winner – Heartland Film Festival
Best Documentary – Bethel Film Festival
Best Documentary – Ojai Film Festival
Opening Night – Bethel Film Festival
Opening Night – Williamstown Film Festival

Nashville Film Festival, Woodstock Film Festival, Aspen Film Festival, Provincetown Film Festival, Maine Independent Film Festival, Tahoe International Film Festival, Waterfront Film Festival, Leeds International Film Festival

Released in association with Shout Factory!
A Philomath Films Production in association with the Independent Television Service (ITVS) and the BBC.

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