Bill Moyer’s “RIKERS: AN AMERICAN JAIL” Screening and Panel Discussion
at the Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College in partnership with Many Voices, One Community
FIRST DOCUMENTARY TO FOCUS EXCLUSIVELY ON PEOPLE WHO HAVE SURVIVED THE NIGHTMARE OF INCARCERATION AT RIKERS ISLAND JAIL
PRODUCED BY AWARD-WINNING BRICK CITY TV PRODUCERS MARC LEVIN AND MARK BENJAMIN, WITH PRODUCER ROLAKE BAMGBOSE
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: JUDY DOCTOROFF O’NEILL, PUBLIC SQUARE MEDIA
Lynchburg: In conjunction with their 106th Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Art: Carceral States, which focuses on the issue of mass incarceration in America, the Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College will host a screening and panel discussion of the film RIKERS: AN AMERICAN JAIL on Sat., Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. in partnership with the organization Many Voices, Once Community. The panel will include one of the film’s participants, Ismael Nazario, who spent more than two years at Rikers.
Rikers Island is New York City’s largest jail. It has also been ranked as one of the ten worst jails in America. So, says journalist Bill Moyers, if you want to understand the country’s incarceration crisis, start at the island jail in New York’s East River – just across the water from the main runway at LaGuardia Airport and within sight of the Empire State Building.
Rikers Island is essentially a vast holding pen for people who have yet to be declared innocent or guilty. Of the more than 7,500 people incarcerated at Rikers, almost 80% have not yet been convicted of the charges against them. And all can find themselves at risk in the culture of violence for which Rikers is known.
No one knows what goes on at Rikers Island like those who have been detained there – some for weeks, some for months, some for years – waiting for a trial, a plea deal, exoneration or sentencing. RIKERS, a riveting documentary film from award-winning journalist Bill Moyers that premieres Saturday, November 12th at the DOCNYC Film Festival, turns the camera on more than a dozen former detainees, and invites them to tell their stories to us, face to face. Woven together, their powerful remembrances provide a vivid arc of life on Rikers Island from the destabilizing shock of entry, to the extortion and control exercised by other inmates, the oppressive interaction with corrections officers, the beatings and stabbings, torture of solitary confinement, and ultimately the psychological barriers of returning to an outside world that is completely at odds with the life they lived in jail. See the trailer at www.rikersfilm.org.
Bill Moyers says, “Rikers Island jail has been engulfed in controversy, and brilliant journalism by The New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, the New York Daily News and the Marshall Project, among others, has reported on the cruelty, abuse, and corruption at this island penal colony surrounded by the city’s boroughs. But largely missing have been the voices of the detainees themselves. We set out to fill that gap and bring a new dimension to the public understanding of what is taking place in our name, with our tax dollars, purportedly for our safety.”
The production team identified and interviewed scores of former detainees to create the film. Described from the detainee’s perspective only, every story included in RIKERS was scrupulously vetted to confirm the account. “This is not a he-said, she-said documentary about our criminal justice system,” says Marc Levin. “It is not about causes or alternatives to mass incarceration. RIKERS focuses on the human cost of incarceration, and the degradation of the human spirit that happens not only at this jail but in jails and prisons across America.”
RIKERS is a production of Schumann Media Center, Inc. and Brick City TV LLC in association with Public Square Media, Inc. Produced by Marc Levin and Mark Benjamin, with producer Rolake Bamgbose. Edited by Jason Pollard. Director of Photography Mark Benjamin. Executive Producer, Judy Doctoroff O’Neill. Executive Editor, Bill Moyers.
The exhibition Carceral States will remain on view at the Maier through Dec. 15. Visit maiermuseum.org for more information. During the academic year, the Maier is open Tues.-Sun. from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission to the Maier and its programs are free, unless otherwise noted.