Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Dhamma Brothers (Kind of a Movie Review #8)


No human being should be considered beyond the reach of redemption.
John Lewis

...went to see this movie called The Dhamma Brothers...no, that’s not the name of a southern rock band...though the movie does take place in the south, and contains music by bands like Sigur Ros....apparently dhamma’s an alternate spelling of dharma...and no, it’s probably not playing at or anywhere near your local multiplex...but you should go see it anyway...I make no bones about the fact that this is more like kind of a plug than kind of a review...

...that’s because this is probably the best film about prisoners...in terms of ringing true with my own experience working with maximum security convicts, as well as, more recently, parolees...that I’ve seen...though Shakespeare Behind Bars comes close....with this one, in the opening scenes, I experienced a touch of the feeling I’d get as the gates closed behind me every week...kinda like walking through the wardrobe into Narnia...except, instead of a magical land of talking animals and mythical creatures, I found myself in a terrible, grey world where people are kept in cages and an unending threat of violence seems to permeate the air...where words like correctional should be used only with the deepest sense of irony...

...the movie also gives as good a cinematic representation of non-religious Buddhist meditation as I’ve seen on film...as a group of hardened Alabama prisoners, many of them doing life sentences for murder, enter an in-house vipassana meditation retreat...nine days of sitting and silence... as one of the program’s leaders points out, vipassana means to see things as they are...during which they’re inevitably confronted with all of the anger and hurt that they’ve experienced...as well as all they’ve caused...

...and, after so much so-called true to life voyeuristic when-animals-attack style violence-porn like Oz...not to mention that a full one percent of the population of the United States is currently in prison...we desperately need depictions that’ll help foster a more intelligent and compassionate conversation...not to present some utopian fantasy in which everybody’s simply a victim of the system, but to portray people who, no matter how much pain they’ve caused to others and to themselves, are still, like any of us, more than their worst actions...as bad as those might be...

...anyway, like I said: check it out: www.dhammabrothers.com...

10 comments:

Deborah Godin said...

You jogged my memory with this post. Somewhere a while back I saw a trailer-or, more like a snippet of a trailer-for this movie, and was intrigued. And then I got distracted by a zillion other things, and forgot it. Will put it on my watch list, thanks.

RB said...

Was Shakespeare Behind Bars about the production of King Lear they did at that prison? I read about it in the Times...murderers weeping over Cordelia and the like..I always thought that might be my calling in life: prison plays.

Santhosh K Ramachandran said...

I haven't seen the movie, but I have always liked to read and watch tragedy, may be just to feel how lucky I am. Something similar to Gandhi's Talisman.

"There is redemption to any crime, There is solace behind any bar, There is peace in every heart,
There is a soul in every living system.
There is compassion inside every human."

-Santhosh

Melinda said...

Another movie to go on my list, Jay--I appreciate it when people I respect do give plugs for movies they feel important because I am so busy these days, I don't have time to see every movie that sounds interesting. There are few reviewers I trust as much as friends that share similar interests to mine.

And anything that can raise awareness and inspire compassion about the terrible conditions prisoners find themselves in has to be worthwhile (our entire CJ system needs rethinking, imo).

Melinda

Brooks Hall said...

Yes, this is a great movie. Just loved seeing the transformation, and difficult truths the movie shows. Real people, honestly presented. There's always the opportunity for growth and giving (and living). This stuff works! Also I have experienced this retreat at a Vipassana center.

svasti said...

Sounds like my kind of movie. Something about your description makes me desperately want to see that.

But, like all of the best movies from your country, it'll probably take a good six months for it to appear in one of the handful of arthouse cinemas we have here.

Le sigh

Aggie said...

I hope it gets to be available down here. Sometimes takes awhile but it sounds a worthwhile viewing. Thanks for the recommendation. Good movies are so very hard to find these days.

Wildwoods Retreat said...

Good morning.

Did you see "Dogma"? I have often asked people if they thought the fallen angles, had the story been true, were redeemed at the very end. Most Christians tell me a firm "no". You raise a number of interesting points today not the least of which is, why is the idea of redemption so difficult and illusive in our mental lives? Perhaps it has something to do with why we use 'correctional' instead of some other verbage. A correctional officer once told me that she was a ruler enforcer (as opposed to law officers were law enforcers). Perhaps we should call the prisons" Rule Enforcement Facilities....force against force? But even that may be romantic. BTW, I do think the angels were redeemed..but I am not a Christian.

Elizabeth said...

I'm new to your blog and appear to be having a "learn about prisons" month. I read an incredible article in a recent New Yorker magazine about solitary confinement as punishment in the U.S.A. and randomly visited Alcatraz with my two young sons on our spring break. Now I'm reading a movie about prisoners.

In all seriousness, I look forward to browsing through your blog. Thanks --

Lydia said...

I just checked to see if this movie is playing anywhere near me and it's not. I'll be on the lookout.

Two things:
#1
My first marriage was to a law student who, with a few others in his class, started mock trial classes at the Oregon State Penitentiary. His liaison on the inside was a guy in for life for murder but had done well in his program, becoming a leader of sorts, with phone access to discuss the class. When I answered our home phone he always called me "Little Sister" which terrified me back then. Anyway, I did get to experience what you describe when we were cleared to observe final mock trials. It was all very interesting, and I was claustrophobic the entire time behind "the wall."

#2
A friend of mine has written her first novel and it was accepted by a publisher, to be released in July. Apparently, a majority of the novel takes place in a prison. More about The Crying Tree.

This has to be my longest comment ever.....