San Quentin Film School

Shout out to Pepe Urquijo for your film San Quentin Film School! Wow, the first episode is captivating right off the bat. I am linking here below to the first episode aired on Discovery. The Discovery Channel is running the entire series (check local listings or connect with filmmaker Pepe Urquijo on Facebook).

Maybe we’ll get Pepe online with an interview here at Sweet Entertainment, to talk more about how this project came to be, and how the process impacted him as a filmmaker.

My sense of shock at the number of people behind bars in our country is matched only by the fact that about fifteen years ago it became acceptable to make a profit off of our prison system. The obvious conflict of interest, and market driven factors to keep enough clients is such a stunning example of the weaknesses recently built into and seen in our economic system. Media coverage is already barely covering so many topics, its been easier to leave the subject to those who most passionately speak up.

Discovery Channel’s San Quentin Film School series introduces nine inmates selected like any filmmakers in a competition. In this case, the judges were the prison administration, Discovery and the filmmakers who deliberated and selected the men to attend this film school taught inside, giving the inmates an opportunity to tell their own stories. We as the audience benefit in meeting and learning about each of the students, and their intersection with prison system. Click on the link below to see the first episode on youtube thanks to joeymeadowcreek. The series runs through April on Discovery Channel Friday mornings at 9:00 a.m.

I appreciate the contribution Pepe has made. Its very impressive to see another filmmaker sharing his skills in that way – giving the tools to learn how to fish. For if we can tell our own stories we will live a life long filled with cultural richness. To be eliminated from telling one’s story is the cruelest punishment.

I also want to thank people like Ruth Morgan and her organization Community Works. Community Works engages youth and adults in arts and education programs that interrupt and heal the far-reaching impact of incarceration and violence by empowering individuals, families and communities.

I met Ruth several years ago when I was part of an event honoring Ohlone elder women. Ruth has advised me on several projects I have been developing, through her example and kind advice whenever I have asked. Ruth kindly gave me permission to include some of the photographs of the elder women in Witness the Healing.

Ruth has greatly inspired me with her dedication to Jail Arts a program she began in 1979.

Both of these projects offer a deeper understanding of and share the stories of the people inside, and their families on the outside, told through their words and creative expressions.

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