On Friday night (5 October) the Institute for Criminal Policy Research (ICPR, at the School of Law, Birkbeck) presented a film screening of 'Tre Maison Dasan', an award winning documentary film about three American boys, each with a parent in prison.
This absorbing, moving and sensitively edited film followed the lives of Tre (13), Maison (11) and Dasan (6) during poignant visits to their dads (or in Dasan’s case, mom) who are serving prison sentences in Rhode Island state. Love, guilt, forgiveness and the pain of separation are the big themes running through this film.
Only gradually do we learn of the circumstances of each boy’s life and their respective parent’s incarceration – information that emerges during conversations between parent and child. The parents’ immense regret – and their deep concern for their children – are heartbreakingly clear. The two younger boys’ questions to their parents are answered with admirable courage, both by Manny (Maison’s dad), who on one visit is ‘interviewed’ by his extremely bright 11 year-old sitting across the desk, and by Stephanie, Dasan’s mom, who judges that her little boy is now old enough to ‘handle the truth’ about why she has been away.
Troubled teenager Tre is less talkative than Maison on visits to his dad. Instead, father and son share long, tearful hugs, as well as jokes about their ankle tags – Tre is already under probation himself. Home life with his mom seems to offer little structure or support, but the boy’s musical talent and winning personality shine through and (we hope) sustain him when an unexpected tragedy hits him in the course of filming.
The music deserves a special mention. There’s a haunting original score (by Gil Talmi) as well as tunes with great beats and lyrics to which the boys contributed.
Director Denali Tiller and executive producer Andrew Freiband had been awarded ‘Best Documentary’ category at the Raindance film festival a few hours before this screening. They stayed on for questions after the film and the Birkbeck audience’s appreciation for their work became clear during the ensuing discussion. The production team have expressed interest in returning to London for further screening events and in working with ICPR to produce filmed content about our prisons research – an offer we hope to take up.