Life Inside Out
Life Inside Out is a vérité-style documentary that takes us inside the walls of Grand Valley Institution - one of five federal prisons for women in Canada. Here, most residents live in small houses they share with ten or more roommates, in an environment that is supposed to be more female-friendly than the notorious Kingston Prison for Women, now shuttered.
The first documentary to go behind the walls of this new breed of prison, Life Inside Out features three unforgettable women over age 50, doing time in a system that can seem designed to frustrate and baffle. It's a world where arbitrary decisions, bureaucratic ineptitude and a Kafkaesque parallel justice system control every last detail of inmates' lives.
When we meet Kim, a quiet immigrant from Vietnam, she waits with increasing desperation for a parole board hearing put off so often she begins to doubt it will happen. Without proper access to a translator, she is left to fend for herself, with the help of her well-meaning but cynical lawyer.
Pearl, who describes her philosophy as "Live for today, why worry about tomorrow" - relies on her faith in God to stay positive through prison absurdities - like educational programs of dubious value and being charged with planning to try to escape. "It doesn't sound right," she says. "They should let me try to escape first, then charge me."
And then there's TA - brash, outspoken and alternately crude and tender. She is serving a 20-year sentence, bucking and challenging the system every step of the way. Whether singing a country music weeper of her own composition, agitating for a smoke-free house, or fighting for programs for abused women, TA comes across as larger than life.
With remarkable access to these women and their daily lives, filmmaker Sarah Zammit delivers a film that does not idealize the women. At the same time, it refuses to accept the false logic that people who have committed crimes are not worthy of basic human dignity.
2005, 73 min 26 s
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