Panorama | Documentaries
Twice a year, members of the public are invited into California’s Folsom State Prison to join convicts—many serving time for brutally violent offenses—for four days of intensive group therapy. Winner of the top documentary prize at SXSW, The Work powerfully illuminates the roots and outcomes of toxic masculinity, as well as the potential for rehabilitative programs to produce transformative healing.
The untold story of Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous’ vérité tour-de-force is how the filmmakers gained the trust of the participants in order to record them at their most vulnerable. At times almost uncomfortably intimate and often viscerally cathartic, the film is never exploitative; this a profoundly humanist work of art that presents all of it subjects—convicts and citizens alike—as deeply flawed but still very much capable of empathy and compassion. The film neither obscures nor excuses the harm caused by the inmates it profiles, but it does make clear how their violence is connected to the trauma they’ve experienced—and how such trauma connects men living on both sides of the prison’s walls.
"An emotionally riveting documentary that may very well be the most powerful group therapy ever caught on camera."—Eric Kohn, IndieWire
Grand Jury Award, Documentary, SXSW 17