"There are things to know about prisons and prisoners. There are misconceptions to be abandoned, biases to be dropped. There are a heart and mind that need opening."
How It Began...
Two years ago acclaimed Canadian musician and film maker Rita Chiarelli and cinematographer Mikal Shapiro of State City Films were invited into ‘The Topeka Correctional Facility for Women’ in Kansas. For two days, the mission was to bring, perform and share some music with its inmates.
What They Found…
It was quickly discovered that unlike penitentiaries that house male inmates, where there are instruments available and some forms of music programs, the women’s facilities more often than not have none, such was the case in Topeka.
Rita Chiarelli began to work with the women, teaching them to sing some traditional tunes, and encouraging them to bring into the mix their own writings.
What happened next…..
Amidst the bonding that came through working together on the music, stories of unbelievable abuse that the women have suffered in their lives started to emerge. They shared stories of beatings and frankly abuse too difficult to imagine. As Rita and the inmates worked together, the women’s voices began to ‘rise’, begging to be heard.
This story needs to be told…Why?
A phenomenon is happening. While abuse against women is on the rise… more women are being incarcerated than ever before. Sometimes the abuser is the system itself…poverty, social injustice…this story will reveal what some women in society are going through and what leads to their incarceration. Their stories reveal that they too are victims of the detrimental effects of poverty, addiction, physical and sexual abuse and assault.
Now What? A Film…
Rita and Mikal plan to go back in. Rita will bring the healing power of music to this maximum security facility .Through the compassionate eye of Mikal’s lens; she will follow Rita as she works with a group of talented inmates and adds music to their compelling writing.
This work will culminate in a concert… a concert that will be presented to their fellow inmates, families, victims and the greater community. Authorities from the Department of Corrections will be invited to attend including the Kansas Governor Laura Kelly.
This concert is an opportunity for the inmates to express their thoughts and emotions as well as reveal a side of themselves that will showcase their humanity. Their expressions set to music and sung out in what will be a cathartic culmination of a difficult yet liberating soul search for the women involved. And through the power of music, these women will ask us all for a little more understanding, forgiveness and maybe another chance.
What we leave behind…
Rita has been in touch with an organization that brings instruments and music programs to prisons that have none. They are now in contact to possibly facilitate a music program in Topeka Correctional Facility for Women. The impact this project could have on the wider public is also considerable. What goes on behind the gates of a prison--from the lives of the state employees and guards, to those imprisoned inside the cells--often goes unseen and unheard. This lack of transparency contributes to a lack of accountability on our justice system as well as stigma and stereotypes of lives behind the wall. Creative work that connects people on “both sides of the fence” contributes to a healthier dialogue around crime, crime prevention, justice, rehabilitation, and redemption and an unsustainable system for controlling crime. Bringing artists and musicians into the dialogue can help highlight our collective humanity and work to facilitate criminal justice reform.
Rita and Mikal have planned 10 days of filming with an all-female crew.
The $32,500 is needed to indeed ‘kick-start’ this project's initial costs of filming this documentary.
"To imprison a woman is to remove her voice from the world, but many female inmates have been silenced by life, long before the transport van carries them from the courthouse to the correctional facility."
Wally Lamb, "Couldn't Keep It To Myself"
Rita Chiarelli - Director/Producer
Mikal Shapiro - Producer/Director of Photography
Mikal Shapiro is a filmmaker and musician based in Kansas City, Missouri. For the past seven years, she has worked on independent, non-profit and commercial productions around the country. She has produced for Mile Deep Films and Television and she was Director of Photography for the regional Emmy award-winning film “Tipping Point.” Her production company is State City Films.
Khitam Jabr - 1st Assistant Camera/Camera Operator
Alexandra Lambdin - Audio Engineer/Boom Operator
Courtney Williams - Production Assistant
Risks and challenges
This project has been two years in the planning. We have gone through intense conversations with all parties to ensure that all pieces are in place. All of us working on this project are deeply committed to it. In short, to the best of our ability we have covered all the bases.
Risks? Life is filled with risks...We are prepared 'barring natural disasters' to telling this story.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)