Directed by Angad Singh Bhalla
On April 17, 1972, Black Panther activist Herman Wallace and fellow Panther inmate Albert Woodfox were thrown into solitary confinement in the United States' prevalent maximum security prison, Angola Prison (which was formerly known as a slave plantation), for the unexplained murder of a prison guard. To this day, Wallace is serving a life sentence in solitary confinement in a six-by-nine-foot prison cell for a murder he most likely did not commit.
Thirty years later, Herman Wallace's hope was restored when he received a letter from New York City artist Jackie Sumell. In the letter, she asked Wallace what kind of house does he dream about living in, which became the catalyst to a friendship between strangers and an art exhibition conducted by Sumell entitled "The House That Herman Built," simply to keep Wallace's dreams alive.
However, it becomes abundantly clear that Wallace wants his freedom and his dream home to become a reality and although Sumell's initial purpose was to free his mind from solitary confinement, she takes on the gruelling task of making the impossible possible. However, it's difficult to determine which pipe dream is more hopeless: Herman's dream house being built or that he will eventually walk out of the prison as a free man.
Torontonian director Angad Singh Bhalla's first documentary feature focuses more on the emotional and human struggles of Sumell and Wallace rather than the facts and theories as to why Wallace is still wrongfully in solitary confinement, which effectively makes this documentary as powerful as it is heartrending.
Through letters and phone calls, Bhalla depicts Wallace as a surprisingly tranquil and thought-provoking free-thinker who's ironically more at peace with himself in a six-by-nine cell than artist Sumell, who is overwhelmed and trapped in a prison of her ensuing guilt.
Although this documentary will make many feel angered and discouraged over how cruel the U.S. penal system can be, it also conveys how the power of imagination and a strong heart can bolster the human spirit.
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