Shakespeare Behind Bars

2005, Documentary, 1h 32m

27 Reviews 500+ Ratings

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critics consensus

Shakespeare Behind Bars is a moving testament to the power -- and universality -- of art. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

In this documentary, a theater troupe consisting entirely of convicted felons performs the plays of William Shakespeare for a captive audience. The troupe is already in its seventh year when the film crew joins them as they attempt to put on "The Tempest," a play largely about the dangers of social isolation. In candid interviews, the film chronicles the project from its casting, through its rehearsals and finally to its performance at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in Kentucky.

Cast & Crew

Sally Jo Fifer
Executive Producer
Nick Fraser
Executive Producer
Shane Hagan
Cinematographer
James Wesley Stemple
Original Music
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Critic Reviews for Shakespeare Behind Bars

All Critics (27) | Top Critics (14) | Fresh (25) | Rotten (2)

  • This fascinating video documentary covers a nine-month rehearsal of Shakespeare's final play by inmates at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in La Grange, Kentucky.

    August 12, 2008 | Full Review…
  • The up-close interviews with the prisoners, many of whom are in jail for murder, are the heart of the film.

    May 19, 2006 | Rating: B | Full Review…
  • Rogerson and producer Jilann Spitzmiller ably convey the humanity of the inmates while also exposing them as deeply flawed individuals. The film also reconfirms the enduring relevance and power of Shakespeare and his adaptability to almost any milieu.

    May 12, 2006 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • Few non-fiction films about the arts hit as hard or soar to such heights of poetry and humanity.

    May 11, 2006 | Rating: 3.5/4
  • Observes as the inmates use theater to massage knots of guilt and anguish in their psyches.

    May 5, 2006 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • The film makes the case -- one that always needs making -- that, despite what they've done, these men retain some shred of humanity.

    April 14, 2006 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • This fascinating video documentary covers a nine-month rehearsal of Shakespeare's final play by inmates at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in La Grange, Kentucky.

    August 12, 2008 | Full Review…
  • The up-close interviews with the prisoners, many of whom are in jail for murder, are the heart of the film.

    May 19, 2006 | Rating: B | Full Review…
  • Rogerson and producer Jilann Spitzmiller ably convey the humanity of the inmates while also exposing them as deeply flawed individuals. The film also reconfirms the enduring relevance and power of Shakespeare and his adaptability to almost any milieu.

    May 12, 2006 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • Few non-fiction films about the arts hit as hard or soar to such heights of poetry and humanity.

    May 11, 2006 | Rating: 3.5/4
  • Confronts, with grace, the notion of anyone being beyond redemption.

    September 22, 2020 | Rating: 3.5/4.0 | Full Review…
  • ... a truly compelling examination of the extent to which art can lift the human spirit, no matter how tragic the surrounding circumstances may be.

    July 10, 2007 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Shakespeare Behind Bars

  • Dec 07, 2007
    Hmm...mixed feelings. First of all, I don't think the program is THAT big a deal, like people are making it out to be. Sure, some of the inmates might be profoundly moved by the play, but I hardly think they're representative of the population. (wow...I think in terms of psychology now -_-). Some of it seemed too cutsey. Like, "let's laugh at the semi-articulate black man prunce around in a female character's costume!" Errrr.... I kept imagining how the victims' families would see this movie. Although, there are some thought-provoking segments, particularly the speech given by a 7-victim sexual abuser. At my screening, the guy who ran the program was there and held a Q + A session. He was much more obnoxious in person. Isn't it ironic how self-proclaimed "bleeding heart liberals" are supposed to be "free" and whatnot but they all end up so Debbie-Downer bitter? Jeeze.
    Joey N Super Reviewer

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