More people are imprisoned in the United States at this moment than in any other time or place in history, yet the prison itself has never felt further away or more out of sight.
The Prison in Twelve Landscapes excavates the hidden geographies of the modern prison system by offering a film about the prison in which we never see an actual penitentiary. Instead, the film unfolds as a cinematic journey through a series of seemingly ordinary landscapes across the USA where prisons do work and affect lives. In each place, we encounter new characters and new situations through which we make a sequence of surprising discoveries: for example, that the patch of grass and singular swing set at the corner of the block in a neighborhood in Los Angeles was built to thwart parolees with sex offender status who are barred from living within 2000 feet of parks or schools. Other scenes take viewers into in a warehouse full of boxer shorts, a California forest fire, an abandoned coalfield, a tech incubator hub in downtown Detroit, and a host of other unexpected spaces.
A meditation on the prison and its invisibility in the era of mass incarceration, The Prison in Twelve Landscapes offers a tender and powerful cinematic subversion of the prison’s disappearance from public view.