Building on the success of their award-winning documentary The Dhamma Brothers, filmmakers Bestor Cram, Jenny Phillips and Andrew Kukura have teamed up once again to highlight one of the most critical issues in the national debate over criminal justice reform: the flood of prisoners returning to our communities without the guidance and support needed for a successful transition back to society. Too often, prison reentry becomes a setup for failure and eventual reincarceration.
Beyond the Wall follows five formerly incarcerated men who are attempting to rebuild their lives on the outside with little support from our criminal justice system. Their stories revolve around one central figure, a former prisoner named Louie Diaz, who works with each man to help him maintain his sobriety and his freedom. Through compelling and intimate scenes, the film vividly captures the struggle for survival outside prison walls.
Much of the filming takes place on the streets of Lowell and Lawrence, Massachusetts, cities built along the banks of the Merrimack River to power once thriving textile mills. Those mills are now shuttered and the cities laden with poverty, crime and drug addiction. The winding river, never far from the eye of the camera, reminds us that amidst the ongoing crises in the lives of these men, time is always in motion and even if they experience a fall it’s not the end…the river flows on.
Through personal stories of reentry, relapse, recovery and redemption, Beyond the Wall puts a human face on the social, economic and emotional barriers encountered by returning citizens. In bearing witness to their struggles, we are offered insights and hope for ways prison reentry can be more successful.