Music from the Big House - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Music from the Big House Reviews

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December 26, 2012
Rita Chiarelli, who is that?
June 25, 2012
‚Music From the Big House‚? was beautifully created to tell an impacting story in the form of documentary. Unlike some documentaries that simply tell cold-hard facts about an issue through a boring narrative, MFTBH captures the mind and heart simultaneously. It follows renowned Blues artist, Rita Chiarelli in a journey through the Angola State Prison in Louisiana, were she attempts to heal and reform inmates through experimentation with Blues music.
Chiarelli deserves recognition for this spectacular film. In our society, we tend to forget that prisoners are human too and despite their mistakes they have thoughts running through their minds and emotions coursing through their veins. She gives them a chance to prove themselves and make something of their lives, where most of us would not even dare. Throughout the documentary one develops a connections with several of the Angola Prison inmates interviewed. This film succeeds in helping the audience view prisoners for more than just their crimes. An unconventional feat, it is an inspiring story that attempts to progress societal views and reform the prison system. Everyone should watch.
May 16, 2012
I've never seen anything like Music From the Big House. Knowing the premise, I knew it would be an emotional ride and probably pretty powerful stuff, but that can be said for a plethora of movies and I underestimated the way the film would genuinely move me. It's hard to describe certain emotions I felt during the movie, but its raw power was sublime. The whole movie being in black and white established a very unique, very tangible, and distinctly southern atmosphere. The film had this quiet authority that just captivated me.

Seeing the different prisoners perform in their respective bands they had formed was awesome and these men knew their instruments. I liked how organic the movie was, it just trudged on at its own pace and there were no fancy frills to distract it from its path. A couple close ups of some of these inmates just playing their instruments were some of my favorite scenes. One man plays his harmonica with such quiet confidence that you can't help but feel his passion. During that and similar scenes I couldn't help but try and figure out what these inmates were thinking, what could possibly be going on in their minds. I can't imagine knowing that the rest of my life will be spent in one place and I'll die in that place and there's nothing I could do about it. The inmates have nothing to lose and everything to give and you can tell that the music is really a guiding light for some of these men, probably for some the only thing that is keeping them sane or giving them some semblance of a purpose.

The concept of forgiveness is central to the movie and who is worthy of forgiveness, and it's easy to sit back and say these men should be forgiven. It's hard not to feel that way; they seem gentle, peaceful, and genuinely changed. But it's impossible to make that decision without being one of these men's victims, or a part of their victims' families. It creates a constant tension that truly invests you in the film, and it's impossible to leave the movie without an impression.
May 16, 2012
Music from the Big House was a unique look into how prisoners deal with extremely long sentences. Rita Chiarelli had once visited Angola prison due to its rich musical history and was astonished to find how much musical talent still existed there. She returned a few years later to put on concert with a few bands within the prison, this concert is the main focus of the film. The editing of the film does something good though, instead of making it just an hour and a half long concert video, the music numbers are separated by interviews with the inmates as they explain how they personally became interested in music growing up. They then go on to explain how music is used to keep their sanity while stuck in Angola prison. For many of the inmates we meet music has been their saving grace, keeping them inspired and hopeful. What the film does well is keep the inmates seeming like ordinary people, it makes you care about them and hear and feel their plights. You end up feeling like these are defiantly changed men by the end of the film, then there is the reveal where you see all the inmates‚(TM) crimes. Overall the film is extremely enjoyable, the music is fabulous and the artistic talent coming from those individuals in Angola prison is irrefutable.
½ May 15, 2012
I sat down to watch Music from the Big House knowing little more than it was about the blues, I left knowing it was about far more. Bruce McDonald beautifully directs this film in a way that shows every bit of the person‚(TM)s story. The film begins with blues musician Rita Chiarelli and why she began her journey to Angola, or Louisiana State Penitentiary. Music from the Big House ultimately is a collection of stories, of men‚(TM)s flaws, hopes, and the discovery of forgiveness. As Rita begins assembling her bands of musicians to perform before their families and fellow inmates we are also introduced to them, their stories are laid out before us. I could not help but feel for these men, and when the music begins to play I could not help but feel it myself. Their voices and music reflect every ounce of their struggles. In the end, Music from the Big House is a movie about blues and the men from which it comes, it is a film of hope and dreams, when men at their lowest lows have no where else to look but up.
March 31, 2011
What a heart touching story about prison life in Angola Louisiana. Very thought prevoking.
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