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Films Inside:

Film clubs in prison libraries

and community libraries 

Films Inside is a partnership between Lemos&Crane, Staffordshire County Council's Public Libraries and Prison Libraries Service, BBFC, BFI and Picturehouse.

People in prison watch many films, but usually on their own and drawn from a small selection of unoriginal, mainstream titles on DVD.  They rarely get the opportunity to receive any education in film and cinema or see a wider range of genres and subject matters on film or to discuss their reactions and reflections with others who have also seen those films. Films Inside sought to fill some of these gaps for prisoners in education and experience of film making and film watching.

During the summer and autumn of 2017 Staffordshire PLS, led by Alan Smith, delivered a pilot programme in the libraries at HMP Brinsford, HMP Featherstone and HMP Oakwood.  A selection of films on the theme of fatherhood, an important and difficult subject for many prison residents, were shown to groups of 15 nominated residents who were all fathers. Each was followed by a discussion facilitated by library staff. To curate this list of films, Lucy Brett, BBFC, worked with Mark Reid, BFI and Leah Byrne, Picturehouse. The films were chosen to represent a wide range of genres, film making styles, short and feature-length films and to reflect aspects of the history of film.

This final list included a silent short animated film which won an Oscar (Father and Daughter), a British film (Wild Bill), a comtemporary US film (Father of the Bride), a 1950s black and white comedy and a classic 1960s Hollywood adaptation (To Kill a Mockingbird).  Lucy Brett provided notes of prompts for facilitators of points of discussion on each film.  Where necessary, permission was obtained.  During the same period a film club was established at Wombourne Public Library, run by Staffordshire County Council.  Participants in Wednesday evening film showings and discussions watched the same films and also received information about reactions to the films from the residents of the prisons. The films shown were(links are to IMDB, the film database):

A street-toughened parolee finds his two boys abandoned by their mum and fending for themselves. Time to step up, or not.

The former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed.

Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his children against prejudice.

A father says goodbye to his young daughter. Time passes and the daughter moves through life age by age, but within her there is always a deep longing for her father.

With his oldest daughter's wedding approaching, a father finds himself reluctant to let go.


Objectives of Films Inside

The feedback on Films Inside was excellent from participants in prisons and in the community and from prison staff.

"The young offenders often feel that there is a major barrier between themselves and the wider community. Within the prison system they are often asked to be involved in projects that are very much 'in-house' projects. Films Inside offered them an opportunity to share their views with members of the public and to hear the oppinions of the community group as well as older prisoners. For many of these offenders they had never been part of such a group and the change in their behaviour became clear very quickly just from sitting quietly and watching a film they needed to comment on." Louise Mason, Library Supervisor, HMP/YOI Brinsford

"This project has given me a lot of pause for thought about being a dad. I'm not sure if I would have thought about all these issues by myself or even just through reading." Participant, HMP Featherstone

"I absolutely loved this and it has made me start to watch films properly." Participant, HMP Oakwood

"I was a little sceptical at the start but I have been pleasantly surprised by the reactions to the films by the prisoners and this has helped to change my (clearly wrong) first impressions of how I thought they would react." Wombourne Library film group participant

Read Gerard Lemos's briefing on films for education in prisons here

Read the evaluation report prepared by Staffordshire Prison Library Service here



Contact us:

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