Director: Jairus McLeary, Gethin Aldous
Country of Origin: USA 2017 89 mins. (15)
Winner – Grand Jury Prize – SXSW 2017
Winner – Audience Award – Sheffield Doc/Fest 2017
Released by Dogwoof
Folsom Maximum Security Prison, Sacramento, California, immortalised by Johnny Cash in 'Folsom Prison Blues' and home to some of the most violent inmates in the American penal system, some of whom will never be released, twice a year opens its doors for selected members of the public to join prisoners in 4 days of group therapy, in a ground breaking experiment run by the inmates and ex-cons of the Inside Circle Foundation.
Set inside a single room three men from outside - bar tender Charles, museum associate Chris and teaching assistant Brian participate in the gruelling 4-day group therapy. The hidden past is revealed, demons are confronted and those from the outside are themselves forced out of their comfort zone. Raw in its intensity, anger, fear, trauma and regret surface in a welter of rage and tears. Low self-esteem and absent and abusive fathers emerge as a common factor in both inmates and the three men from the outside. As Charles admitted 'There go I but for the grace of God.' Remarkably tribal affiliations are replaced by vulnerability and a search for compassion. The camera may focus on one group but the screams of other participants are heard in the background. The Work is a unique form of rehabilitation and the results are extraordinary. Since its initiation, 40 inmates who took part in the sessions have been released and none have re-offended. It would be interesting to know how the outsiders are selected.
Powerful and compelling, 'The Work' offers a fly-on-the-wall insight into a remarkable experiment.