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Shakespeare Behind Bars
Shakespeare Behind Bars
Director: Hank Rogerson
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Documentary
NR     2006     1hr 33min

Shakespeare Behind Bars is a film that follows an all-male Shakespearean theater company composed of convicted felons. For one year, while incarcerated at Kentucky's Luther Luckett prison, the cast rehearse and perform a f...  more »


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Movie Details

Director: Hank Rogerson
Creators: Shana Hagan, Hank Rogerson, Victor Livingston, Jilann Spitzmiller
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Pop, Rock & Roll, Documentary
Studio: Shout Factory Theatr
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 07/18/2006
Original Release Date: 01/01/2006
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2006
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 1hr 33min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
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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."
Get out your handkerchiefs!
Tuned In | USA | 07/26/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"A great story, and it's true life! This film satisfies on all levels and most importantly, does not fade away into the blur of All That Has Gone Before. You will remember this film, and if you happen to see it more than once, will appreciate the different points, parts, details and words that come through in each viewing.
It is not necessary to understand Shakespeare to understand this movie. Yet you may understand Shakespeare better after having watched it! The play featured in the film, "The Tempest" has forgiveness as a theme. I will wager that few viewers will come away from the film with their own capacities for compassion and forgiveness unchanged.
The issues are heavy; the film is not. It's funny, well told and well timed. The soundtrack is tasteful and non-manipulative (thank you so much for that). And there are some surprises along the way. Just like life.
I attended a screening for educators at correctional institutions (you know, prisons) and can attest that to a person they were impressed, inspired, and wanted a copy of this film. That's a strong recommendation in and of itself.
I not only dare you to see this movie, I dare you to show it to one other person you care about."