May 22, 2014

Review: The Farm: 10 Down (2009)

The Farm: 10 Down is a followup to the 1998 documentary The Farm: Angola, USA. They both follow the day to day lives of inmates in Angola Prison which is located in Louisiana. It's a maximum security prison with inmates being of the most notorious variety. One in two inmates are murderers and 95% of them will die behind bars. The Farm: Angola, USA paints the prison as the most bloody and violent in the United States and not a really great place to be in obviouslyl. However, a lot has changed in those 11 years.

We get reintroduced to prisoners from The Farm: Angola, USA which is really nice since they're all memorable and it's great to get an update on their situation. The Farm: 10 Down is not quite as demoralizing as its predecessor but still has some pretty heavy moments, particularly a difficult to watch meeting between Vincent Simmons and the two victims he was found guilty of raping in 1977.


Genre: documentary
Directed by: Jonathan Stack, Nancy Novack
Produced by: James McKay, Jonathan Stack, Mara-Michelle Batlin, etc.
Written by: Susan Shea, Jonathan Stack
Music by: Curtis Lundy
Running time: 98 minutes
Production company: Highest Common Denominator Media Group
Distributed by: Highest Common Denominator Media Group, Canvas
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry

Starring: Sean Vaughn, John A. Brown, Jr., George Crawford, Wilbert Rideau, Vincent Simmons, Eugene 'Bishop' Tannehill, Logan 'Bones' Theriot, Ashanti Witherspoon 



The difference between The Farm: 10 Down and The Farm: Angola, USA can be attributed to the big changes that have been made to the prison itself. Angola used to be run extremely harshly but warden Burl Cain tends to value rehabilitation over simple punishment which has led to big changes. 11 years later and Angola is not longer anywhere close as violent as it once was. I feel that the prison atmosphere is a little glossed over but it's clear that things have really improved. Besides giving prisoners important life skills, there's a significant effort in instilling a sense of morality and there are two Angola ex-prisoners who are a big part of that.

Ashanti Witherspoon and Bishop Tannehill are both out of Angola. They both were great examples of model prisoners from The Farm: Angola, USA and their work has been rewarded at last. It's really great seeing these two out and about and talking about readjusting to life outside prison. Angola is still a huge part of their lives and they haven't abandoned the friends they made while they were in the joint. They are the best cases of rehabilitation gone right.

Vincent Simmons as I mentioned before was also in The Farm: Angola, USA and he's apparently gotten interest from lawyers about defending him if his case were to be reopened. His parole hearing from the original is still a very difficult part to watch and it's shown again in The Farm: 10 Down. We get introduced to the twin sisters who were apparently raped by Simmons which is good for showing both sides of the story. Whether or not you think Simmons is guilty, I really appreciate the fairness in which both sides get to tell their stories.

Probably my only big complaint about The Farm: 10 Down is that it shows too much footage from The Farm: Angola, USA. I suppose this was done because I'm sure many people didn't see the original, so this way people don't have to and can still appreciate what's being shown. For a runtime of about an hour and a half, probably 20 minutes is taken up by old footage when I just wanted more footage of the prisoners now, not then.

The Farm: 10 Down is a great update piece on how far Angola has come in 11 years. Burl Cain seems like a good man doing a job not a lot of people would want to do. There have to be more efforts made in rehabilitating prisoners instead of just creating environments where their criminal lifestyles will continue to thrive. You need success stories like Ashanti Witherspoon and Bishop Tannehill to prove that this can work and that prisoners can become valuable members of society. TF:10D is a great look at prisoner rehabilitation and of what needs to be done across all of North America to address its prison problems. Can't we all just aspire to be in a situation like Sweden?



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