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Documentary Focuses on Shakespeare's Influence in Prison

Documentary Focuses on Shakespeare's Influence in Prison



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Carole Mikita Reporting Life, death, betrayal, redemption -- the themes fit both the plays of William Shakespeare and the lives of prison inmates.

"Shakespeare Behind Bars" is a successful program at the Luther Luckett Medium Security Prison in Kentucky. The filmmakers have been rewarded with standing ovations after screenings because of their intriguing documentary.

"The Tempest" studied, rehearsed and performed by prison inmates. Their process of discovery is the subject of the Sundance documentary "Shakespeare Behind Bars".

Hank Rogerson, 'Shakespeare Behind Bars' Director: “I’ve done some acting. I’ve studied Shakespeare. And they’re more dedicated than so many of the actors I’ve seen.”

Filmmakers Hank Rogerson and Jilann Spitzmiller traveled from Los Angeles to the prison in Kentucky nine times over a nine-month period, and were given unprecedented access to the inmates.

Jilann Spitzmiller, 'Shakespeare Behind Bars' Producer: “These guys are telling very very deep and dark stories, and we feel very privileged to have been able to go in there.”

They were also grateful to the program's creator.

Jilann Spitzmiller: “The director, is part father figure, part therapist, part mentor, and then a Shakespearean educator."

The inmates in the Shakespeare program have committed horrible crimes, but what the filmmakers show us are people seeking forgiveness, redemption -- partly because of what they learn about themselves by performing the play.

Hank Rogerson, "Shakespeare Behind Bars" Director: "It's the thing of who they are now, versus who they were. And that's sort of one of the big battles in the film."

The filmmakers say they are thrilled to be part of the Sundance Film Festival. They say just the association with it will change the way they are perceived in the industry.

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