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SOLITARY | Movie Review – Tribeca Film Festival 2016

Solitary Image101
SOLITARY | © 2016 Catalyst Films

If you treat them like animals, that’s exactly how they’ll behave.” – Joe Clark (Morgan Freeman) LEAN ON ME (’89)

It’s without question all crime shouldn’t go unpunished, but how far should we go? How low should we sink in order to make sure those who’ve made bad choices in life regret it? It’s neither black nor white on how these decisions play out. More like shades of grey, especially within a system overlooked by our government for purposes of making sure these perps rehabilitate themselves to a certain degree – even those who will never see the light of day. Is playing God appropriate at times? Seems like it is for some. Is the idea of forcing someone to live on their own within the confines of a cell no bigger than an average apartment bathroom (if that) where all they have is silence and their thoughts a form of rehabilitation? Is that a way to humanly treat your fellow man? As a nation, we’re the first ones to bitch about human rights on foreign soil. That’s for Goddamn sure. But since we’re the ones imposing it, then it’s hypocritically ok, I guess.

SOLITARY is a fine piece of exposition that presents the darker side of justice. The lower end of a psychological spectrum. One that embodies a point of no return for anyone under any circumstance. There are 100,000 US citizens in solitary confinement across the country, a staggering number prompting much concern from both President Obama and the Pope. Situated in rural Virginia (300 miles from any urban center), Red Onion State Prison is one of over 40 super-max facilities across the US built to hold prisoners in eight-by-ten-foot cells for 23 hours a day.

With unprecedented access, director Kristi Jacobson offers a revealing and disturbing portrait of life inside solitary confinement. Filmed over the course of one year, this eye-opening film presents severe prison imagery, stories from correction officers, and intimate reflections from the men who are locked up in isolation. The inmates share the paths that led them to prison and their daily struggles to balance the edge between sanity and a horrid breaking point. Through moving stories of the people who are immersed in this system, SOLITARY opens a rare window into life on both sides of the bars and sparks thought-provoking questions about punishment in America today.

I think if anyone of us spent years locked in our bathrooms for 23 hours a day we’d all go a little psychotic. Solitary confinement has, is and will always be a controversial topic. Yes, the argument can be made about these men and women having made their choices in life, but truth-be-told, no one is born with malicious intent. It’s imposed, engraved, taught, not a birth-mark on our brains. And as one of the country’s most advanced in a lot of different kinds of sciences in the medical field, I know we can do better than just shove our “lesser important” citizens into a closet of concrete walls and treat them like lab-rats. SOLITARY is a frightening reality of what goes on behind-the-scenes and much kudos, respect and love to director Kristi Jacobson for exposing an act that needs much more attention. Recommended to the ehighest degree, I urge everyone to lend this piece their mind, body and soul and for once place yourselves in the shoes of those whose voices go ignored on a daily basis.


Grade: A+ / Genre: Documentary / Run Time: 1:22

Directed by: Kristi Jacobson


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© 2016 Catalyst Films