Synopsis by Jason Buchanan
New York artist Jackie Sumell collaborates with prisoner Herman Wallace on an art project that leads to a remarkable friendship in this documentary examining the horrors of solitary confinement and the incredible power of art to transform our outlook on life. A native of New Orleans, Wallace was in the midst of serving an extended sentence for bank robbery when he was convicted of killing a prison guard at Louisiana's Angola penitentiary, and locked in solitary confinement. Despite numerous appeals -- and compelling evidence that Wallace was in fact not guilty of the murder -- there he sat for years. Flash forward to 2001, when Wallace received a letter from Sumell inquiring "What kind of house does a man who has lived in a six-foot-by-nine-foot cell for more than 30 years dream of?" It was the beginning of a curious partnership that culminated in the creation of a collaborative art exhibition dubbed "The House That Herman Built," which challenged observer's perceptions of prison by contrasting a full-scale wooden replica of Wallace's cell against blueprints for his dream home. Later, when Wallace requests that Sumell begin actual construction on the house, the artist starts to wonder if she's gotten in over her head. As the story of their project unfolds, Wallace makes another appeal, and interviews with his cellmates, family, and supporters offer a disturbing look at a prison system that some feel is hopelessly flawed.
prison-cell, prison-reform, solitary-confinement