Shakespeare Behind Bars Reviews
The film was made over about a year, and so we get to see the ongoing dramas of the prisoners' lives, as well as their preparation process. Their stories are varied and interesting, and it's surprising how emotionally involved you get - everyone in the class I watched the film with really wanted to know what became of the various prisoners after the film was over. The filmmakers smartly do not foreground their own presence at all, so we feel a direct connection to the prisoners' lives.
The film does make a strong case that everybody can benefit from and somehow relate to Shakespeare. For instance, there is the story of one inmate, a black African-American male, who seemed to really find himself identifying with the role of Miranda, the dispossessed heiress of an Italian dukedom in the play. All of the actors seem to genuinely care about the play in a way you sense they may not have cared about things in their previous lives. This could have seemed manipulated and artificial, but it's an indication of the film's skill that it feels very convincing. The idea of this film may sound strange to you, but I promise, it is worth watching.
It touches two nerves for me- the value of Shakespeare and the value of a human being. This is what art is supposed to be about- transcendence and transmutation.