The Prison in Twelve Landscapes by Brett Story
90 minutes 2016
Where have our prisons gone? Brett Story’s elegant twelve-step reply shows how America’s obsession with incarceration has woven itself deeply into the ongoing class war. Criss-crossing the United States, pausing long enough to examine yet another facet of the prison-industrial complex, though often with unexpected subjects and interfaces, the artist asks us to reappraise the scope and complexity of the disciplinary system. A portrait of eastern Kentucky, for instance, allows how the coal ran out for towns built on coal, and how prisons have become a new economic engine, “recession proof” because they can’t be outsourced overseas. In Marin County an ex-con narrates her all-woman firefighting team over stunning vistas of fiery destruction. Her voice carries a tough fragility, perhaps this is the cost of surviving, or living with a past that can’t be easily shelved. In the Bronx, a store opens manned by an ex-con filled with prison-ready goods. He knows how much a package of raisons has to weigh, that nuts must be delivered without shells, that the buckle on a belt needs to be 1.5” or less, boxer shorts have to be white, and with a particular kind of elastic. In Los Angeles pocket parks are built after a city bylaw requires that sex offenders not be able to live within 2000’ of a park. Interviews outside the St. Louis County Courthouse reveal a black population systemically targeted by an apartheid system designed to extract money, and punish citizens for the colour of their skin, even for simply living in their neighbourhood. A devastating indictment of the carceral state, Brett Story’s film delivers a systemic analysis that is delivered with an impressionistic beauty and space enough to read between the lines. This movie takes no prisoners.