IDFA: The Cause

“This isn’t like any prison in the United States or any developed country, where you get your uniform and an assigned cell. Here, you are first sent to ‘The Church.’ You spend some time adapting there, then you search for a place to live,” explains a prisoner at the General Penitentiary of Venezuela, which is run by the inmates themselves. They settle legal disputes on their own, and even have their own tax system.

If that seems incredible, wait until you’ve seen the whole of this staggering documentary about life in this massively overcrowded prison. The shared open courtyard is, like the cramped cells, constantly swarming with armed prisoners, visiting spouses and children, and scurrying creatures. Money for crack, cocaine and gifts for the kids comes from the shared pot.

Five years’ worth of film material (some of it shot with hidden cameras) and interviews show the internal workings of the prison, and the corrupt penitentiary system around it. Above all, it tells the human story, of current and former inmates searching for salvation through religion, music and even politics.

Spoken word performance by Venezuelan poet Rachel Diaz. After the film screening an extended Q&A with director Andrés Figueredo and  Diaz who will discuss the urgent developments unfolding in Venezuela. What role is there for films and their makers in depicting the ongoing changes in their country?

This program is part of IDFA x De Balie: Doc Talks