The Center for Media Justice (CMJ) and the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net) had the privilege of bringing our members, allies and partners to an advanced screening of the poignant and powerful film, “Middle of Nowhere” at the Urban World Film Festival in New York City. “This is a film about the lives of regular Black folks,” Ava DuVernay, the director of “Middle of Nowhere” said as she introduced the film that made her the first African-American woman to win Best Director at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
The film opens in theaters nationwide on October 12th. “Middle of Nowhere” provides a rare look at the harsh reality of how incarceration impacts and strains a relationship and family. Ruby, the main character played by Emayatzy Corinealdi is a working class registered nurse grappling with the distance from her incarcerated husband, who is housed in a facility hours away. She struggles to pay her husband’s lawyers fees and maintains contact with him through rare visits, letters and phone calls. It’s seldom to see a film like this one that is so intimate, so raw and puts a human face on the effects of the criminal justice system.
CMJ and MAG-Net are collaborating with Participant Media to use the film for civic engagement on our Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, an organizing effort to end the predatory phone rates that folks have to pay to stay connected to their loved ones who are incarcerated. Participant Media’s Take Part is a portal for people to take action after watching the sobering film.
The packed crowd stayed for the Q & A with the filmmaker, actress and crew members that was moderated by Moikgantsi Kgama of Imagenation, a Harlem based arts and media advocacy based group. Moikgantsi mentioned how the film has already made waves in the advocacy front, teaming up with MAG-Net on the campaign to end these exorbitant prison phone rates. Ava DuVernay talked about making films that reflect the reality and lives of the African-American community, she tackles those subjects in her films and wants them to be used for advocacy and social change.
This film is a reminder of how powerful character driven films like this one, can actually speak volumes about our system that has seen a 780% increase in incarceration of mainly Black and Latino men since 1970.
This past Friday, September 21st was the one-year anniversary of the execution of Troy Davis, an African American man who was incarcerated for 20 years for a murder even in the face of overwhelming evidence that argued his innocence. We know these are not aberrations, but endemic in our system that maintains structural racism and poverty among communities of color. This kind of injustice may seem insurmountable to fight, but grassroots organizing through out the country gives us hope and faith that change is possible in our criminal justice system. One concrete way you can take action is by going to www.phonejustice.org to help keep prisoner families and loved ones connected, because the right to communicate should belong to everyone. This is not just a phone access issue. It is a human rights issue. It is an economic and racial justice issue.