Six media artists collaborate with women prisoners to represent new visions of this crisis.

From its opening statements by former inmate Angela Davis, to Scarlot Harlot and Duran Ruiz’s deconstruction of a 20/20 Primetime expose, to a portrait of filmmaker Cheryl Dunye directing a feature film about women and prison, RELEASED boldly styles an innovative statement about women, prison, artistic collaboration, and the nature of documentary media.

Completely unique in its format, this 28-minute dv documentary artfully merges five short videos to create a powerful – and empowering – forum to consider the personal and political meanings of what is truly a contemporary crisis. We get to know women prisoners as creative and complex individuals who make the most of the power of self-expression to draw compelling depictions of their experiences. At the same time, RELEASED also makes more subtle claims about the capacity of documentary media for facilitating contemporary social activism and change.

RELEASED is a singular documentary which raises a pressing contemporary social issue through diverse but complimentary artistic approaches. The documentary is composed of five original shorts linked into a coherent whole. These include the following:

UNYIELDING CONDITIONING – Sylvain White and Tamika Miller (emerging music video director and producer) work with former inmates, including Angela Davis and photographer Tracy Mostovoy, to represent eloquent portraits of former women prisoners. Music video style.

SHELTERED – Enid Baxter Blader (emerging video artist) explores the effects of recurring incarceration (always followed by a fruitless search for shelter) on her close childhood friend, Christine Ennis. Video art style.

A GRAM ‘O PUSSY – Scarlot Harlot (BLIND EYE TO JUSTICE: HIV+ Women Incarcerated in California) and Duran Ruiz (featured on a recent 20/20 segment exploring prostitution) deconstruct how the mainstream media represented Ruiz, prison, drugs, and prostitution, and then re-represent her as an artist and activist. Activist video feel.

BREATHE – Animator Joseph Saito shows the interior story of an incarcerated woman: photographs and memories offer small relief to the cold, noir-like, nihilistic world he draws. Animation.

MAKING THE INVISIBLE INVINCIBLE – a look at Cheryl Dunye’s “STRANGER INSIDE”. Cheryl Dunye (The Watermelon Woman) collaborates with Super-8 filmmaker, Irwin Swirnoff, to create a diary of her experiences directing a dramatic feature about a mother and daughter who meet in prison. Video-diary feel.


5 Short Videos about Women and Prison


Screenings: Women in the Director’s Chair, Queer Fests (NY, LA, SF, Toronto), Prison Fests.
Available on YouTube.

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Alexandra Juhasz