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Shakespeare Behind Bars
Shakespeare Behind Bars
Director: Hank Rogerson
Ironweed Film Club DVD includes "Shakespeare Behind Bars" as well as "The Wildest Show in the South: The Angola Prison Rodeo" directed by Simeon Soffer and "In The Box" directed by Michal Struss.


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Movie Details

Director: Hank Rogerson
Format: DVD
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
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Member Movie Reviews

Michelle C. from BEAUMONT, TX
Reviewed on 8/4/2010...
I thought this documentary really was directed beautifully, compassionately yet realistically rendered personalities and unfolding plot. The secondary film about the Louisiana prison rodeo on the disk is a real hoot as well. The third short was dramatic and mind binding animation. I highly recommend this disk, so much I think I'll be keeping it until I share it with all my friends who I think might like it.

Movie Reviews

One of the best films of 2005
Paul M. Moore | Grand Rapids, MI United States | 08/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Shakespeare Behind Bars (dir. Hank Rogerson) cracks open the hardened shell of an audience and makes us look at the true human soul inside characters who are otherwise dismissible as "monsters." There is nobody I wouldn't recommend it to. So I have to limit the focus here to what was most important to me about the film and why I walked out knowing that my life is better for watching it.

Curt Tofteland has been volunteering on a weekly basis with prisoners in Kentucky for ten years now to direct the Shakespeare Behind Bars program: 30 inmates who rehearse nine months to perform one show. Through a friend I was given the opportunity to have breakfast with Curt Tofteland and Hank Rogerson, director of the documentary. As I tried to hang words on what the documentary meant to me, Curt just nodded with a knowing smile. He told me that Shakespeare isn't just a literary icon, but the writer who captured raw humanity better than anyone ever has. Which is why he brought Shakespeare to the prisoners.

24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year after year these inmates wear a hardened mask, a false-self who feels no pain. It's survival of the fittest and softness is not rewarded in prison. But for the 30 inmates involved with the Shakespeare productions, honesty is a mandate. They are cast by their peers in roles that fit their background and their crime. In their rehearsals they push each other to go deep, to find honesty, to not act but really wear their character, which for a lot of them means wearing their own skin for the first time. From the screen, their souls became palpable during rehearsals. I watched them discover for the first time the true man behind the label "prisoner," "deviant," "convict."

The film is breathtaking. I laughed and I cried. Then I left the theater chewing on the fact I just just laughed and cried through the struggles of men society has deemed unsafe to enjoy the freedoms I enjoy. That's a sure sign of great filmmaking."
Former Member of Shakespeare Behind Bars
Mark Hourigan | Louisville, KY USA | 08/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Although I am not in this documentery, I was a prisoner at Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in LaGrange, Kentucky during filming. It's almost hard for me to praise the film because I have a biased opinion. I know every one of the guys in this film personally and have experienced much of what they have. This film is about searching yourself, searching for the truth of who you really are inside. No other prison program helped me more than Shakespeare Behind Bars because for the first time in my life, I took a look at the real me. As the men in this film allow you to take a look at who they are, I challenge you to face your own personal truth just as I did while I was a member of Shakespeare Behind Bars. In the words of William Shakespeare, "To thine own self be true"!!!"
A rare experience
J. Anderson | Monterey, CA USA | 09/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This film has rightly been feted generously with accolades and prizes - it's a brilliant Idea, and a deeply affecting, memorable experience. Others here have shared the general premise of the film. I suggest wholeheartedly that it be required viewing for every living educator, it contains life-giving helpings of both seeds and fruit of the vast and intimate fields of purpose educators face every day in myriad ways. Tenderly directed by Hank Rogerson, copiously rich with a story of human beings finding redemption through Shakespeare's eternal art, Shakespeare Behind Bars is a one-of-a-kind jewel. By film's end, the 'bars' melt away in an ineffacable lesson about FREEDOM, miraculously enough, and very real human suffering finds a resonant voice in these prisoners who have never had one, a voice that shouts with hope. It is, simply, a film of joy in the divine power of human art. I've not encountered another like it - it sticks to your ribs and cleanses your mind. Don't delay the experience! Check it out - you'll be awfully glad you did."