Jan 5, 2017 at 7:30 pm
with an excerpt from Brett Story's The Prison in 12 Landscapes
Unavailable for 33 years, Attica (Cinda Firestone, US, 1974) still is a sobering and revealing look into the heart of American justice, weighing the costs of institutional dishonesty and abuses of power against the price some will pay to retain human dignity. In light of current events, the privatization of prisons incentivizing growth, and reports of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees by US authorities in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, and at other secret locations, Attica has particularly significant relevance today.
In this evening we will gather to watch this impactful film through a contemporary lens where the the realities of mass incarceration and prison injustice are still as relevant as ever and a touchstone in the fraught conversation around abuse of power, and rising inequality. We are excited to invite Brett Story to discuss looking back on this historic moment with Attica, and compare and contrast history and the present after her experience and research in making the 2016 essay documentary A Prison in 12 Landscapes.
80 min., 1974, 16mm
Social unrest in the United States hit a boiling point on September 9, 1971, when inmates at Attica State Prison — after months of protesting inhumane living conditions — revolted, seizing part of the prison and taking 39 hostages. The uprising resulted in the death of 43 people after troopers were called in to suppress the rioters. Three years later, Cinda Firestone released this monumental investigation of the rebellion and its aftermath, piecing together documentary footage of the occupation and ensuing assault with video from the McKay Commission hearings that criticized Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller’s handling of the incident and firsthand interviews with prisoners discharged after the event.
The Prison in 12 Landscapes (excerpt)
90 min., 2016
More people are imprisoned in the United States at this moment than in any other time or place in history, yet the prison itself has never felt further away or more out of sight. The Prison in Twelve Landscapes is a film about the prison in which we never see a penitentiary. Instead, the film unfolds as a cinematic journey through a series of landscapes across the USA where prisons do work and affect lives, from a California mountainside where female prisoners fight raging wildfires, to a Bronx warehouse full of goods destined for the state correctional system, to an Appalachian coal town betting its future on the promise of prison jobs.
With support from Cinereach, Vital Projects Fund, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council, and the National Film Board of Canada.
Brett Story is a writer and independent non-fiction filmmaker based out of Toronto and New York. Her films have screened at True/False, Oberhausen, Hot Docs, the Viennale, and Dok Leipzig, among other festivals. Her first feature-length film, the award-winning Land of Destiny (2010), screened internationally and was broadcast on both Canadian and American television. Her second feature documentary, The Prison in Twelve Landscapes (2016) was awarded the Special Jury Prize for Canadian Feature Documentary at Hot Docs, the Prize for Best Canadian Documentary at the DOXA Documentary Festival, and a Special Jury Mention at the Camden International Film Festival. The film will be broadcast on PBS’s Independent Lens in 2017. Her journalism and film criticism have appeared in such outlets as CBC Radio and The Nation magazine,and she is currently completing a book manuscript for the University of California Press titled The Prison out of Place. Brett holds a PhD in geography from the University of Toronto and is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Place, Culture and Politics at the City University of New York Graduate Center. She was the recipient of the Documentary Organization of Canada Institute’s 2014 New Visions Award and the 2016 Governor General’s Gold Medal from the University of Toronto for academic excellence. Brett is a 2016-2017 Sundance Institute Art of Nonfiction Fellow.
Cinda Firestone has always been and still is a rebel with a cause. At age 15 while attending Miss Porter’s in Farmington, Connecticut— a famous boarding school, she initiated a campaign to make church attendance voluntary. This caused the two ministers in the two local churches in Farmington to preach sermons against her.
Later Cinda attended Sarah Lawrence College where she was a member of the Strike Committee that closed down the school in protest against the Vietnam War. She also was jailed during the Columbia University anti-Vietnam War uprising, and devoted her senior year as editor of the college newspaper to getting rid of the new President of Sarah Lawrence – who was an ex-Vice President of IBM who believed that artists could be replaced by machines. Cinda Firestone was a mere 25 years old when, in 1974, she created the landmark documentary film, Attica.
Following Attica Cinda made three more documentaries, South Beach, Retirement and Mountain People on the different ways people retire or choose not to. After this, she devoted herself to reading and writing, and became involved in Children’s Theater writing three original musicals with music by her son, William Fox, one of which, Questionable Quest, played successfully at the Beacon Theater in New York City.
Many thanks to the Reserve Film and Video Collection of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts for lending ATTICA for this screening. Preservation of this film was made possible by a grant from the Women’s Film Preservation Fund of New York Women in Film and Television.
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