THIS IS OUR LAST DAY ON KICKSTARTER--PLEASE PLEDGE IF YOU BELIEVE IN THE MESSAGE!
IN AN IDEAL WORLD is not like the tv prison shows. But then, neither is prison. I was frequently told that nothing would prepare me for prison, so I was a bit surprised not to be shocked or scared. Instead, I found it full of people, in all our flawed, sometimes familiar, sometimes horrifying and on occasion even sublime humanity. The people who live and work in prison have a lot of time, something most of us crave. Perhaps because of that, they can think hard about the place they find themselves.
IN AN IDEAL WORLD may seem a strange title for a film about men in prison, but here at Soledad, three men showed me and hopefully will show you, what is really at stake--and what is possible--in the struggle for something better. The challenges they face are real, not theoretical, and their stories reveal both the hope and the hidden risks of transformative change. They remind us that in an ideal world, dignity and humanity matter.
I’ve been all over Soledad with John, Sam and Warden Ben, gaining their trust, witnessing their battles and defeats (and occasional triumphs) for almost ten years, filming for seven. They will reach you, as they did me, in ways that will surprise you. With their protective masks and quiet pleas, their universal hopes and clouded regrets, their hard won insights and scary blind spots, they will also move you.
In the anguish following Ferguson and Staten Island, something that can get lost is the tacit involvement of all Americans in public institutions, whether we agree with their embedded cultures or not. IN AN IDEAL WORLD goes deep inside Soledad to better understand how an American institution can use race to organize and maintain order, something that is often hard to unpack. Here, it is simply life, both imposed from the top and dutifully perpetuated by inmates and staff below. Power and race are explicit; the stakes are high; and the central characters are compelling and articulate. The stories of these three men compel us to grapple tangibly and deeply with prejudice, shared humanity, and the dire threat a criminalized race order makes to fundamental civil and human rights.
IN AN IDEAL WORLD is almost done! I’ve completed the edit, locked the picture, worked with extraordinary composer B. Quincy Griffin on the musical score, but it cannot screen at festivals, theaters or on TV without a few critical finishing steps. All I need is your help to inch it past this final stage, and ready it for launch in early 2015. Poised to premiere and run in the 2015 season, it needs those magical touches that only out-of-house experts can bring: a little color correction, graphics rendering, audio tweaking and packaging. It’s hard to believe I've gotten it this far, and now it's time to call on a few trusted, incredibly talented (but pricey) professionals to bring what I've edited to its final, fabulous release-ready form. (I've submitted the film to a host of festivals already so don't worry, it has not missed any important festival deadlines! Wouldn't it seem almost *criminal,* though, to pass on a festival because of money?)
I've had some really critical help along the way. I've been blessed (I think that's the only word for it) to have had the impassioned help of the best possible talent--Jon Shenk, Jon Else, Amanda Micheli, Doug Dunderdale, Marcy Schwerin--who brought not just their skill but their shining character, support and great patience to the effort this film required. The MacArthur Foundation, the California Council for the Humanities and the Sundance Documentary Fund also provided more than just funding; they brought dedicated people and perspective, and for a filmmaker who found herself laboring alone a lot, also a kind of committed companionship. These and many other people have been, in the end, wiser than me, as they somehow managed to keep me on track to release IN AN IDEAL WORLD at a moment of dramatic and potentially profound change in American justice, the first in many decades, and one that actually appears to engage both political parties. (Let's keep the pressure on. After all, in whose ideal world does one in 99 adults go to jail?!)
For the first time in 40 years, Americans are beginning to reject the blanket "tough on crime" slogans and the sentencing laws that went with them. We are listening to ideas about restorative justice that make the victim and the community--i.e., the harmed and not just the perpetrator--the focus of criminal justice. We are questioning the morality of solitary confinement and the death penalty. We are resisting the cost that prisons exact on education, other important public services, whole neighborhoods and our national identity.
You can join this conversation. You can even help steer it, not necessarily away from from discussions of spiraling costs and state budgets, but perhaps also toward something deeper more enduring (though less quantifiable), something about the human spirit, its transgressions, its aspirations and its unique capacity for mercy, forgiveness and change. Help this film, or go out and find another way to talk about and engage, without irony, about what might contribute to an ideal world.
As one character in the film reminded me, “Be careful what you practice. You get good at what you practice.” It was a simple truth and a piece of potent, cautionary advice. Let's practice thinking hard about what's hard to think about. Then let me know your thoughts, where you think the film might/should be shown and what great creative ideas you have about American justice, particularly the appropriate role of prison and the intersection of race and power in American corrections. I want to hear from you and I want the film's release to be just the beginning.
Remember, participation is what counts! (and all contributions are fully tax deductible!)
Thank you! Noel
Please visit our FB page for photos, links, videos and more: https://www.facebook.com/IDEALWORLDFILM?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
Risks and challenges
The only real challenge now is AFFORDING THE FINISHING STEPS NEEDED FOR RELEASE! I’ve worked for years developing a rich and deep outreach and engagement plan and have a great network of people waiting to use the film in novel and exciting ways. Gatekeepers in broadcast, festivals and conventional as well as novel distribution are eager to see its launch.
We're just weeks away! Think of it this way: the really, really hard stuff is over: things like getting the (frankly) unbelievable and unprecedented access to all aspects of life inside prison; achieving the trust, candor and long term commitment of principals inside the system who had little to gain and a lot to lose by participating in the film; winning the stunning contributions of the creative professionals and funders cited above; learning the proper process, permissions and political chess games I figured out on the fly; surviving the lack of money (the endless rejections, raised eyebrows, easy dismissals) and the crises of confidence. But there was always the story, and it was important, and the belief of my family, Sam, John and Warden Ben--less challenges for me than unqualified acts of faith and generosity by them.
Please help nudge this project past the finish line. I guarantee it will deliver on its promise to open eyes, and to deepen and broaden the conversation about race, power and redemption in America. I didn't dedicate the last decade to anything less.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (28 days)