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Ronin Films

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Year: 2015

Classification: M

Runtime: 56 min

Produced In: Australia

Directed By: Kelrick Martin

Produced By: Kelrick Martin, Harry Bardwell

Language: English

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WINNER! BEST DIRECTION IN A DOCUMENTARY (Stand Alone) for Prison Songs - Kelrick Martin, 2015 ADG Awards (Australian Directors Guild)

Aboriginal citizens make up 30% of the Northern Territory's population but in its largest prison, over 80% of the inmates are Indigenous.

The inmates of Darwin's Berrimah Prison are shown in a new light in Australia's first documentary musical. The inmates share their feelings, faults and experiences in the most extraordinary way – through song.

Berrimah Prison has been described as Dickensian with its dirt, rats, mosquitoes and unbearable heat. If nothing else, it is an old, overcrowded, tropical jail facing closure. When it first opened in 1979, it was designed to hold 115 prisoners. In 2014 it strains to hold more than 800.

The inmates are varied, both men and women, some from good homes, others from dysfunctional families. Many come from remote communities where English is the second or third language spoken and the traditional law of their society is in conflict with European laws. This documentary gives voice to these normally overlooked Australian citizens.

As distinct from a concert-based documentary, singing pervades PRISON SONGS with prisoners breaking into hip-hop, blues, country, reggae or gospel as they talk about the reasons for their imprisonment. The personal, intimate stories mesh together to create a portrait of life in a society with one of the highest incarceration rates in the world.

All the prisoners in Berrimah have their own story to tell. Life in a contemporary Australian gaol has never been filmed with such detail, emotional depth or with such seriousness and humour. It is a snapshot of Berrimah Prison, just prior to it being decommissioned as an adult prison in late 2014.


Writer-director KELRICK MARTIN
Choreographer PERUN BONSER
Cinematographer TORSTEIN DYRTING

Developed and produced with the assistance of ScreenWest and Lottery West
Developed and produced in association with SBS Australia and with Screen Australia's National Documentary Program
For Beyond West Pty Ltd and Spear Point Productions Pty Ltd

Australian Directors' Guild Awards 2015 - Best Direction (Standalone)
Banff Media Festival 2015 - Best Humanitarian / Investigative
WA Screen Awards 2015 - Best Direction Long Form
WA Screen Awards 2015 - Best Documentary
WA Screen Awards 2015 - Best Editing
WA Screen Awards 2015 - Best Sound

2015 Screen Producers' Australia Awards - Television Documentary Program
2015 ATOM Awards - Best Indigenous Resource
2015 ATOM Awards - Best Documentary General
2015 Walkley Documentary Award
AACTA Award for Best Documentary Television Program presented by Foxtel Movies
AACTA Award for Best Direction in a Documentary
AACTA Award for Best Cinematography in a Documentary
AACTA Award for Best Sound in a Documentary
AACTA Award for Best Original Music Score in a Documentary

Related files


Joan sitting in J Block courtyard
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Malcolm sitting outside of Main Prison Laundry
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Max and Dale standing outside of Main Prison Laundry
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Molly and fellow prison inmates in J Block
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Molly and fellow prison inmates singing and dancing in J Block
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Molly standing in front of J Block mural
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