January 18, 2013

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By Kathryn Kopchik

LEWISBURG, Pa. — The Campus Theatre in Lewisburg will host the documentary film, "Herman's House," Tuesday, Jan. 29, at 7:30 p.m., preceded by a pre-film reception at 6:30 p.m.

Film director Angad Bhalla will introduce the film, which addresses the injustice of solitary confinement and the transformative power of art by highlighting an unlikely friendship and collaboration between a New York artist and one of America's most famous inmates confined in a solitary prison cell for 40 years.

In 1972, Herman Wallace was convicted of murdering Brent Miller, a 23-year-old guard at Angola Prison in Louisiana, and sentenced to solitary confinement.

In 2003, American artist Jackie Sumell wrote to Wallace, asking, "What kind of house does a man who has lived in a six-foot-by-nine-foot cell for over 30 years dream of?"

The film, "Herman's House," documents their creative dialogue and friendship leading to a multifaceted collaborative project that included the art installation, "The House that Herman Built." "Herman's House" has won several film festival awards including the inaugural RIDM Magnus Isacsson Award and Best Documentary at the Harlem International Film Festival.

Bhalla founded the New York film production company, Time of Day Productions, which creates video content and campaign strategies to support social justice organizing. He spent months with Indian villagers who had been resisting an alumina project backed by Alcan, a Canadian-based company. Bhalla's first independent film, "U.A.I.L. Go Back," was used widely as an organizational tool and led Alcan to end — from the film's pressure — its involvement in the project.

The film-maker has produced videos for groups including the Service Employees International Union, Human Rights Watch, and The Center for Constitutional Rights. His award-winning short, "Writings on the Wall," which featured the lives of Indian street artists, garnered him a Silver Remi Award (Worldfest Houston) and a Bronze Plaque (Columbus International Film Festival).

"Herman's House" had its sneak preview at the 2012 True/False Film Festival, and which will have its World Premiere at Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. The film was produced in association with the Ford Foundation JustFilms Initiative, and participated in two labs at the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program. Bhalla is in production with the National Film Board of Canada on the related interactive documentary, "Inside Herman's House."

Life-size prison cell installation
In a related installation, the Lewisburg Prison Project and Susquehanna University Adams Center are partnering with Bucknell students to build a life-size, 6-foot by 9-foot prison cell that will be displayed in the first floor mall of the Elaine Langone Center from Jan. 24 through Jan. 29.

The installation will give the Bucknell community a chance to experience the environment of solitary confinement, where the primary character in the documentary has been confined almost continuously for 40 years, according to Shawna Meiser, project coordinator with the Lewisburg Prison Project.

"Through the film and this installation, audiences will have the opportunity to explore issues in our criminal justice system, the psychological effects of solitary confinement, and how the creative process of art can be used to initiate positive change and greater understanding of social justice issues," she said.

This Bucknell Film/Media Series event is co-sponsored by The Lewisburg Prison Project and the Adams Center at Susquehanna University as well as Bucknell's Social Justice Residential College, Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Gender, Office of Civic Engagement, Place Studies Initiative, the Bucknell Lectureship Committee, Film/Media Studies, and the departments of Art and Art History, Economics, Geography, Religion, and Sociology and Anthropology.

Contact: Division of Communications