Who's in It:
Grady Bankhead, Ron Cavanaugh, Jonathan Crowley, Edward Johnson, Ben Oryang, Rick Smith, Bruce Stewart
The Basics: In Donaldson Correction Facility in Bessemer, Al., prison violence was overwhelming. So they brought in some Buddhists from Australia and taught some prisoners, mostly murderers, about Vipassana meditation. For 10 days, they meditated in a locked gym made into an approximately monastic setting. They were in "noble silence" for the entire time. Afterward, the violence decreased.
What's the Deal? As alien or hippie-ish as the program sounds, it worked while it lasted and makes you wonder how different American prisons could be if people with innovative ideas were in charge. That doesn't make this 76-minute documentary very good, of course there are just too many people talking and too much ground to cover for it to be this short. By comparison, last year's silent monk documentary Into Great Silence was nearly three hours long and appropriately slow, focused and meditative. This one should have tried a little more "noble silence" instead of filling in the gaps with incidental New Order songs on the soundtrack.
Oh Great, Dramatic Crime Re-Enactments. I Love Those: Who's idea was it to include oblique little re-enactments of the prisoners' crimes? When those happen, the movie stops being about what it's supposed to be about and turns into one of those A&E true-crime specials.
Thanks, Religious Bigotry: So, even though this program was working, it was discontinued due to Christian interference, mostly from the prison chaplain, and reflected in attitudes expressed in interviews with local citizens. One thoughtful lady actually says, "I don't believe in Buddhism
or any kind of witchcraft."
Hey, Violent Prisons That Are More Scared of Buddhism Than of Prisoners Stabbing Each Other to Death, Maybe You Could Try
doing what that prison in the Philippines did with the dance routines and make all your inmates learn the steps to "Thriller."