Set inside a single room in the notorious Folsom Prison this documentary mingles convicts with free men in what is the most intense group therapy session you are ever going to experience. This documentary does not compromise as the free and the incarcerated show that the line between them is not a matter of the law but buried deep in their past and is wafer thin.
Documentaries are a huge part of reviewing, it could be movie related or not, but they are usually enjoyable enough. You do sometimes get one that will leave you screaming at the screen wondering how they funding for the film, a notable one this year was about Cats in Turkey, I’m not joking. I sat there and argued with myself if I should leave or stay for the ending. I hate walking out on films so I stayed. But that was a struggle. On the other hand you have films like The Work, Precinct 75, and Cartel Land all of which stand up in the entertainment circle and stand high above most of the summer blockbusters that we’re force to watch through the summer months.
The Work brings us inside the locked doors and violent world of Folsom Prison, where some of the most viscous gang members and criminals are serving sentences that will go on past their lifetimes. One of the men is serving two life sentences plus 55 years, I can’t even think about the maths on that one, and although the film fails to point out his crime it doesn’t fail to show the impact of his new life.
Why The Work is probably the best documentary this year is the blunt clarity that the criminals see their past mistakes and how they are able to openly explain why they are where they are. Not one of them say they are innocent, they admit that they did their crimes. One man, Dark Cloud, explains his crimes in a very matter of fact manner that it takes you a moment to comprehend the savageness of the act. At the start of the documentary though we meet the men who are coming in to be part of this four day session. Mixing criminals the the free men starts off with each of the free men picking two inmates to be their guides through the process.
I can understand the need for programmes like this, and the benefits for both inmates and visitors are vast. This should be rolled out in other correctional facilities across the world. The benefit to the free men who at the start are doubtful about the process is that they are seeing former gang members, killers, thieves, that they could become just after one bad day. One thing goes wrong with their innocent lives and they are in this living hell of a prison. While the criminals are learning the skills that they never picked up in their past.
The film picks one circle, which is about 14 men, all of whom are dealing and wrestling with their demons. The process that the programme creators have created brings the prior lives, as they call it in the film the fatherless sons, even those with fathers in their lives suffered and view themselves as sons without fathers. Concentrating on one group out of four gives us the insights that are pure into the lives of those who are taking part, but in saying that I would have loved to see more from the facilitators who provide this programme. Leaving the screening for this I felt as though I had been put through an emotional wringer and needed to come home and watch a Laurel and Hardy film to cleanse the pallet of my soul. This is not just essential viewing it should be mandatory for everyone. Do not miss this one!