Incarcerated audience was invited to engage in Q&A dialogue with film’s director Madeleine Sackler
The groundbreaking film O.G. was shown to a packed house of prisoners at the notorious Sing Sing prison in New York. The fictional film features an incarcerated man facing release after more than two decades in prison.
The incarcerated men were given a chance to critique the film and have a Q&A with the film’s director, Madeleine Sackler. The event was brought to the prison courtesy of the prison college program Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison.
“The film was recognized by our organization because of its groundbreaking inclusivity,” said Sean Pica, executive director of the sponsoring organization.
The film was released last year on HBO and is considered unique because it was shot in the Pendleton Correctional Facility in Indiana; almost every role in the film is played by someone who works or lives in Pendleton, according to the organization’s press release.
The college program, along with the film’s director Sackler, was granted permission to screen the film inside Sing Sing for the Hudson Link students. Hudson Link has a college program in eight New York state prisons—Sing Sing is one of them.
Pica made the surprise announcement at the organization’s Spring Benefit Dinner, following the presentation of its Bill Webber Award for Community Service. Sackler was this year’s award recipient.
Sean Pica said that Sackler created the film to challenge the image of prisons that is currently portrayed in popular culture: “These images can be incredibly misleading,” he said, “and ultimately fail to represent the realities of those caught within the system.”
Sackler is an Emmy-winning director of films that shine a spotlight on social injustice. Her award-winning documentary, The Lottery, brought attention to the US public education crisis. According to the press release, this led her to investigate criminal justice issues and problems in prison systems.
“Our currently incarcerated students love hearing about those whose work we recognize and celebrate,” said Pica, “so this film screening not only gave them the opportunity to meet someone who has done incredible work in her community, it also gave them the chance to assess that work for themselves and offer their responses.”
After the film, students discussed their critiques, focusing, for example on the portrayal of violence. The group praised the film for capturing the disorienting experience of facing release from prison.
“We would like to thank the administration at Sing Sing for continuously encouraging unique educational opportunities for our students,” said Pica. “We wouldn’t be able to host any of our incredible events or programs without their support.
“We would also like to thank Madeleine and her team for visiting our program and taking the time to encourage our students. This was an incredibly unique experience which we know the Sing Sing students will be talking about for a long time.”