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Hidden Lives Illuminated Set to Open Today at Eastern State Penitentiary

The Filmmakers of Hidden Lives Illuminated Talk About Prison and Their Art

Shalon Baylis - August 14, 2019

Hidden Lives Illuminated, a project of 20 films made by incarcerated filmmakers, will be projected on the external walls of Eastern State Penitentiary starting today and will continue through September 12th.

Films will be screened onto a 20-by-30-foot area of Eastern State’s façade each night from August 15 through September 12, 2019 using a concert grade digital projector. A total of 20 original short films will be shown throughout the month, each created for this project by artists currently incarcerated in Pennsylvania prisons and jails. The films will offer an intimate look inside America’s correctional system, conceived, narrated and animated by incarcerated people. Screenings will be free and open to the public, and content will be appropriate for people of all ages.

The nightly screenings are grouped into four themed weeks, each addressing subjects such as “Community and Family Impact” or “Restorative Justice.” About five original short films will be screened nightly, all touching on that week’s theme. Additional animated guest films, all created by filmmakers close to the justice system or communities impacted by high rates of incarceration, will round out the nightly screenings.

Ahead of the screenings, a contributor from Generosity sat down to speak directly to the people behind the project.

"We wanted to hear about the message each filmmaker wanted to convey to the audience, and we wondered how they determined which aspect of their lives to focus on:

Braheem L.: I wanted to show my sons’ side, and how they feel with me being away for so long. They’re only four months apart. They were 9 months and 5 month [then] … they’re 21 now.

Alexander S.: Mine is basically a memory. I didn’t have any pictures of anything, so everything I did was drawing. I drew everything out. I feel like I just tried to show something people could find relatable to somebody on the inside, and show that somehow people are the same; people have [made] mistakes and childish moments.

Justino G.: The title ‘Piano Priest’ is obvious, but I chose that form of media [pictures] because I’m not a good artist in terms of sketching — that’s initially how they wanted me to go. I felt [that] the fact that I’m not a good artist would take away from the powerful images of who’s actually playing, so I was fortunate enough where they allowed me to use actual images of [my son] playing. It’s not quite finished, but now I’m excited, and I’m just proud of everybody here. Everybody’s film is wonderful.”

To read more, click here.

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