Take 20 minutes to explore more than 40 years of solitary confinement in the NFB interactive experience The Deeper They Bury Me: A Call from Herman Wallace. Launches online and live at NYFF September 27

September 22, 2015 – Toronto – National Film Board of Canada (NFB)

The New York Film Festival’s Convergence 2015 conference hosts the world premiere of the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) interactive documentary The Deeper They Bury Me: A Call from Herman Wallace on September 27 with The Deeper They Bury Me LIVE, an exclusive event co-presented by social justice organization Sankofa, founded by Harry Belafonte. Co-directed by Angad Bhalla and Ted Biggs, this interactive documentary launches the same day, for audiences worldwide, at NFB.ca.

Within a window of 20 precious minutes—the time allotted for a prison call—The Deeper They Bury Me plunges users into the universe of former Black Panther activist Herman Wallace, in an interactive inside look at the system that held him in solitary confinement for most of his adult life. Wallace’s universe in Louisiana’s notorious Angola penitentiary is reimagined through the deft overlay of Wallace’s real voice with sparsely poetic animation, as visitors navigate between his six-by-nine-foot cell and the dream home he envisions with artist Jackie Sumell. After 42 years in solitary confinement, Wallace was released from prison on October 1, 2013 and died three days later of cancer, nine days shy of his 72nd birthday on October 13.

The NYFF launch features a performance by three-time NAACP Image Award winner Malik Yoba (Empire, New York Undercover), who will guide audience members through segments of The Deeper They Bury Me via an imagined phone exchange with Wallace. It will be followed by a panel discussion with leading activists and thinkers, including Belafonte, Steven Hawkins (Amnesty International USA), Thenjiwe McHarris (US Human Rights Network), Frank Greene (prison architect) and Angad Bhalla, who will discuss prison reform, combating racism, and the criminalization of dissent. Gina Belafonte, co-director of Sankofa, will moderate the discussion.

The Deeper They Bury Me is written and directed by Angad Bhalla and Ted Biggs (Storyline Entertainment), and produced by Anita Lee for the NFB. Lee approached Bhalla to develop an interactive production in parallel with his Emmy Award-winning feature documentary Herman’s House, which will also be available on VOD/DTO for Canadian viewers at NFB.ca, on September 27. PBS’s documentary series POV will also stream Herman’s House for free to American viewers for 30 days, also starting September 27.

Co-directors Bhalla and Biggs worked with animator Nicolas Brault and the Toronto-based multidisciplinary studio Helios Design Labs to embed Wallace’s testimony within an immersive environment of poetic animation and evocative archival images, crafting an utterly original perspective on North America’s prison industrial complex.

This is the second time that the NFB has been featured at Convergence, which hosted the 2013 world premiere of the NFB/The New York Times Op-Docs collaboration A Short History of the Highrise, part of the NFB’s multi-year, multi-award-winning HIGHRISE project.

Quick Facts

•    The US has the world’s highest incarceration rate, holding over 2.3 million citizens behind bars. Over 80,000 are kept in extended solitary confinement, a practice denounced as cruel and unusual punishment by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.
•    While held in Louisiana’s Angola prison for armed robbery, Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox and Robert King formed a prison-based chapter of the Black Panther Party, advocating for other inmates inside what has been called the “bloodiest jail in the south.” Wallace and Woodfox were placed in solitary confinement in 1972, charged with and later convicted of killing a prison guard. King was also placed in solitary, although never charged with the murder. In the absence of any physical evidence linking Wallace or Woodfox to the murder, independent legal observers have accused the prison administration of framing the Angola Three. Court appeals continue.
•    The Deeper They Bury Me LIVE will be presented at Convergence 2015 on Sunday, September 27 at 2:00 p.m. at the Howard Gilman Theater.
•    Angad Singh Bhalla chooses projects that highlight voices we rarely hear. After spending months with Indian villagers who had been resisting an alumina project backed by Rio Tinto Alcan, he produced his first independent project, U.A.I.L. Go Back, which was used widely as an organizing tool. He has since worked on videos for groups including Human Rights Watch and the Global March Against Child Labour. His short documentary on the lives of Indian street artists, Writings on the Wall, garnered awards at Worldfest Houston and the Columbus Film and Video Festival.
•    Ted Biggs has worked for the past 15 years in documentary films and interactive media. Working with Storyline Entertainment, he co-created the NFB co-produced feature documentary Shipbreakers and co-produced the history documentary Hitler’s Canadians. He previously served as head of production at Xenophile Media.
•    NFB producer Anita Lee heads the NFB’s Toronto-based Ontario Centre studio, a renowned source of innovative film and interactive productions. Previously an award-winning independent producer of documentary and dramatic features, Lee has produced such acclaimed NFB works as Sarah Polley’s feature documentary Stories We Tell, winner of the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Non-Fiction Film.
•    Nicolas Brault won the NFB’s Cinéaste recherché(e) contest for emerging animators in 2000. Since then, his films have earned numerous honours and awards, with his 2010 NFB short, The Circus, vying for Best Animated Film at the 37th César Awards. Since 2012, he has developed a series of non-narrative short films and immersive projections about the human body, with Foreign Bodies receiving the Off-Limits Award at the 2014 Annecy International Animation Film Festival.
•    In the U.S., Bhalla’s documentary film Herman’s House is available on DVD/VOD via First Run Features.

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Associated Links

Sankofa
Convergence 2015
Herman’s House official website
Herman’s House POV page
Storyline Entertainment
Nicolas Brault
Helios Design Labs
NFB blog post “Interactive Portrait Goes Inside US Prison System”

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The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) creates groundbreaking interactive works, social-issue documentaries and auteur animation. The NFB has produced over 13,000 productions and won over 5,000 awards, including 14 Canadian Screen Awards, 11 Webbys, 12 Oscars and more than 90 Genies. To access acclaimed NFB content, visit NFB.ca or download its apps for smartphones, tablets and connected TV.