Mass Incarceration

“Angola Do You Hear Us?” Oscar-Shortlisted Doc on Plantation Prison Takes On Mass Incarceration

This can be a rush transcript. Copy might not be in its closing type.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Democracy Now!, I’m Amy Goodman, as we finish at present’s present taking a look at a outstanding new brief documentary that’s been shortlisted for an Academy Award. It’s referred to as Angola Do You Hear Us? Voices from a Plantation Jail.

NORRIS HENDERSON: Angola was a plantation.

LIZA JESSIE PETERSON: Simply since you see a jail along with your bodily eyes, what do you see past that?

NORRIS HENDERSON: You begin questioning why can we ship folks to jail, and who’s really right here.

LIZA JESSIE PETERSON: My greatest buddy, she mentioned, “You’ve bought a narrative to inform. Write that [bleep] down.” And I simply put the craze on the web page, as a result of I had needed to do one thing.

ANGOLA PRISONER 1: Man, we want assist.

LIZA JESSIE PETERSON: I’ve been to 35 prisons throughout the nation, however this, I knew, was historic, to be on a jail plantation not simply to carry out, however to activate.

NORRIS HENDERSON: All people clung on to each phrase that she mentioned.

ANGOLA PRISONER 1: I’m telling you, that place erupted.

ANGOLA PRISONER 2: You jumpstarted our hearts and our minds.

NORRIS HENDERSON: Right here was some reality that someone couldn’t deal with.

AMY GOODMAN: For extra, we’re joined by Liza Jessie Peterson, the actor and playwright featured in Angola Do You Hear Us? Voices from a Plantation Jail, which was produced by MTV Documentary Movies and by Cinque Northern, artist, filmmaker and director of the Academy Award-shortlisted documentary we’re speaking about at present.

Congratulations to each of you on this honor. Cinque, why did you select to make this movie and concentrate on Angola, a jail we have now talked about for therefore lengthy, for instance, the place Albert Woodfox was incarcerated for therefore many many years?

CINQUE NORTHERN: Thanks, Amy. And thanks for having us at present.

, I’ve been following Liza’s work since she was working at Rikers, and had been desirous to do one thing to form of elevate the work that she was doing with incarcerated populations as an artist. And clearly, when the chance got here for Liza to go to Angola, it simply grew to become a lot greater. And initially, I had gone down there simply actually simply to shoot the efficiency, Liza’s efficiency. It was extra a shoot than it was a movie at that time. However as soon as what occurred in that room occurred, then it grew to become a a lot greater story. And we noticed Angola as a manner of telling this singular story about this singular artist, would have a approach to actually simply be an instance, you understand, of what’s happening, actually, all through the nation.

AMY GOODMAN: And particularly Angola, because the title of your movie, a part of it’s this plantation jail, its historical past, from its title to who’s held there?

CINQUE NORTHERN: Yeah. So, lots of people — I realized, within the strategy of going there, that the explanation it’s referred to as Angola, it was previously a plantation, and plenty of the enslaved folks there have been from Angola. And so, when it grew to become a jail — and that is 18,000 acres of farmland. When it grew to become a jail, it saved the nickname Angola. And so, the hyperlink of that historical past, I feel, is simply very telling.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s return to your movie, Angola Do You Hear Us?, the place we hear the phrases of males incarcerated at Angola jail being learn by others to guard their identification.

ANGOLA PRISONER 1: It’s laborious in that area, man, as a result of when that summer time come, folks be falling out in that area. They’d deal with a horse earlier than they deal with us, man.

LIZA JESSIE PETERSON: Seeing these white correctional officers on horseback with rifles, I imply, it simply appears like one thing out of the Antebellum South.

ANGOLA PRISONER 2: The bulk is all Blacks within the area. At one time, the boys within the area line was 300 sturdy, and also you had 10 white boys.

ANGOLA PRISONER 3: So, you understand we’ve bought over 6,000 folks right here. They’re warehousing us, bro.

ANGOLA PRISONER 4: Being right here, I see that plenty of guys right here, they’re damaged.

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt of Angola Do You Hear Us? And we additionally hear there Liza Jessie Peterson. Liza, inform us your story, that’s instructed so fantastically on this movie, the way you ended up at Angola and what occurred.

LIZA JESSIE PETERSON: Yeah, thanks for having me, Amy.

I had the chance to fulfill Norris Henderson, who’s additionally featured within the documentary. And he and I are each grantees with Artwork for Justice. They usually had a convening in 2019 the place all of the grantees, the artists and activists who have been working to finish mass incarceration who’re supported by Artwork for Justice, all of us met. And Norris, who was previously incarcerated at Angola, took us on a area journey, principally. We bought on a bus, and he took about 20 of us — excuse me — to go to Angola. And when he talked about that there was a drama membership at Angola, I bought excited, as a result of I wished to carry out my play, The Peculiar Patriot, at Angola. And so, that’s how I met Norris. However there was no manner that I might have ever imagined that assembly Norris in New Orleans in 2019 would result in what occurred in 2020 within the chapel at Angola.

AMY GOODMAN: What occurred?

LIZA JESSIE PETERSON: Oh, it was fairly gorgeous. Norris has an incredible relationship with the administration at Angola, as a result of he served over 27 years earlier than he was launched, and he nonetheless does work with the jail doing reentry work. And so, he was capable of facilitate, with the administration, permission for me to not solely come to carry out for the inhabitants, however to additionally movie the manufacturing of The Peculiar Patriot. And we had permission.

And actually quarter-hour earlier than I used to be to go on stage, they instructed — excuse me — our movie crew that we couldn’t movie, that we needed to shut our cameras down, for no cause. We had no thought what the trigger was. After which I went on and carried out with out filming it. And midway by the present, after I go backstage to prepare for the following scene, Norris is backstage with a correctional officer standing behind him, and he tells me that there’s been an emergency within the chapel, and we have now to finish the present. And I simply knew instinctively. I mentioned, “Ah, yeah, there’s one thing else happening.”

AMY GOODMAN: And let’s be clear: It’s not simply that folks have been personally watching you, they usually canceled it for them, however this was on closed-circuit TV all through Angola. How many individuals, do you estimate —


AMY GOODMAN: — have been watching on the level the place it was shut down, and why you assume it was?

LIZA JESSIE PETERSON: Effectively, so, what’s fascinating, the — you understand, Angola has their very own radio station. They’ve their very own TV, closed-circuit TV station. And so, they’d the incarcerated males who run the tv station movie the play in order that it could possibly be live-streamed by all the jail. And I feel roughly 6,000 or 7,000 males are incarcerated. So, within the chapel, there have been bodily about 700 males or extra packed into the chapel to observe it, after which live-streamed all through all the jail. So, they have been capable of see all the pieces. They have been even capable of see the shutdown. So, though our cameras weren’t allowed, the dwell stream — so, the boys who have been within the housing areas, they bought to see the second when it shut down and the raucous response that occurred, that adopted afterwards. And I’d say — and I used to be instructed by the boys, who contacted me after the efficiency by their wives and thru contraband telephones or no matter means they’d obtainable, that the housing areas, that the day rooms have been packed, that males have been crowded across the televisions watching the efficiency.

AMY GOODMAN: This will need to have been wonderful for you, Cinque Northern, as you filmed this efficiency. And watching this brief documentary, I hope there aren’t any flies within the room when anybody watches, as a result of your jaw drops. You may choke when the flies fly in. However, Cinque, possibly in the identical manner, that if you noticed, your self, the movie, shortlisted for an Oscar — what are you hoping to do with this over these coming weeks?

CINQUE NORTHERN: Effectively, I imply, we actually need as many individuals to see it as doable. We all the time had an concept that this movie would create empathy.

And simply so as to add to what Liza mentioned about what occurred in that room, an vital factor to recollect is, earlier than it bought shut down, these males have been laughing, they have been crying. They have been so captivated by these characters that Liza had created. Liza wasn’t simply in there giving statistics. She actually embodied these characters. And I feel the interruption of that created this momentum that saved going.

However so far as the movie, I imply, we hope to get nominated. , that might carry a lot consciousness, a lot extra consciousness to this, and actually, I hope, would have folks be unsettled with this actuality and look additional into it.

AMY GOODMAN: And the way persons are capable of watch this now throughout?

CINQUE NORTHERN: You may watch it now streaming on Paramount+.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Liza Jessie Peterson, as we wrap up, what you need folks to remove with? You’re the final visitor of our 12 months right here at Democracy Now!

LIZA JESSIE PETERSON: Effectively, that’s fairly an honor. And I actually hope that folks will take away the humanity of people who find themselves incarcerated, and to not simply know them as numbers or see the statistics, however know that for each quantity there’s a human being linked to that quantity, and there’s a household and their relations. So I hope that this movie will encourage and ignite compassion, empathy and therapeutic, and, most significantly, reimagining how we cope with mass incarceration and to ascertain one thing totally different than what we have now now.

AMY GOODMAN: Effectively, Liza Jessie Peterson, actor, playwright, and Cinque Northern, director of the brief documentary Angola Do You Hear Us? Voices from a Plantation Jail, which has simply been shortlisted for an Academy Award. You may watch it at Paramount+ streaming.

That does it for our present. I’m Amy Goodman. Completely happy Information 12 months!

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