DOCUMENTARIES by L. PAUL SUTTON PRISON THROUGH TOMORROW'S EYES (2013) Twenty-four criminal justice majors from San Diego State University dove headlong into the California prison system in a eye-opening and mind-changing experience that covered eight prisons over the course of five days and 1200 miles. Students saw first-hand what life--and survival--was like in the "belly of the beast."
A skeletal crew followed students as they spoke intimately with both guards and inmates about the often brutal realities of incarceration in the largest and most expensive prison system in the world. Students, themselves, were also interviewed before, during, and after their weeklong adventure. Most changed in ways they had never imagined. (57 min.)
has won awards from a dozen prestigious film festivals across the globe, including Europe's Cannes Independent Film Festival
- Ten years after the making of Doing Time, the Penitentiary of New Mexico exploded in the bloodiest riot this country has ever seen. We returned to the prison to recount the events that led up to the riot. Few could have predicted what would happen to those men; even fewer could imagine the horrors that befell them and that ill-fated institution. (58 min.)
- two Emmy Awards and multiple international film festival awards
- The first real documentary about life inside the penitentiary, Doing Time was shot inside the New Mexico State Penitentiary--the scene, 10 years later of the bloodiest prison riot in American history. The camera follows inmates as they tell their stories, uncensored, to a sociologist and an English professor seeking to capture the real story of life behind bars--straight from the source, the inmates themselves. (56 min.)
- three Emmy Awards and multiple international film festival awards
BROKEN MOLD: the Legend of Alfredo Santos (2014)
In the 1950's little-known convict and less-known artist, Alfredo Santos won a contest to paint the massive dining room walls of the notorious San Quentin State Prison. Both the walls and Santos have withstood the test of time. The walls remain a testament to the imagination and creativity of inmates, and Santos' life after San Quentin celebrates the success of a brilliant talent that could have been squashed inside the walls. After his release from San Quentin, Santos flourished as an artist, developing an international reputation, but squandered or lost the riches that should have been his. Content now that his work will survive him, Santos lives out his days on his meager sustenance in a tiny room in San Diego. (in production)
STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN (2014)
- Twelve college students from SDSU ventured onto a maximum security prison yard to meet with twenty prisoners--mostly lifers, some doing life without the possibility of parole--to talk and to write--about their lives, their hopes, and their dreams. Four hours a week, for 12 weeks, they wrote and read to each other about Insecurities, Fear, Love, Hate, Loyalty, Respect, Honor, Family, Masks, Deceit, Hope, and the Future.
- The topics were weighty and the discussions substantial, as they interacted in ways that neither students nor prisoners had imagined. Both groups started off wary and intimidated by the strangeness of their new audience and the task before them: to communicate honestly, effectively, and respectfully about things they seldom thought about and virtually never shared. Vulnerability is weakness in prison; yet both prisoners and students shed the instinctive masks that shield us all, as they learned to share openly and honestly about topics that challenge even the best of us.
- Against this setting of the worst in man, students and prisoners discovered a humanity and caring in themselves and in each other, as they grew to understand, appreciate, and accept each other in a world where such emotions are as rare as they are perilous.
- A retired Sergeant from 30-year stint working behind the walls of San Quentin State Prison recounts his life and times working with inmates and staff at one of the toughest prison beats in the world. In a compelling dialog that is both light-hearted and gravely serious, he paints a world that would strike terror in most, but a world in which he thrived, and a world which--when the time came--he hated to leave.
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