In the Land
of the Free
Directed by Vadim Jean
Screened at John Moores University
Wednesday 12th October 2011
Followed by Robert King: The Story of a Black Panther Q&A
The film tells the tale of the “Angola 3”, framed for a bank
robbery in the 70s then for the murder of one of the prison guards whilst
in prison but in actual fact it was for being Black Panther members and
trying to organise more humane conditions for the inmates.
For those not acquainted with the case and mistrial of the defendants,
lets take some time out to dwell on the time these people have been incarcerated.
Not only were they snatched off the streets as teenagers, but they were
also cruelly punished by the added weight of the torture of solitary confinement.
Three young men, Albert Wood Fox, Herman Wallace and latterly Robert
King, were detained for decades in solitary confinement. Robert king was
released in 2001 and is on tour with the film to answer all and sundry.
It tells the fantastic, yet tragic, tale of human defiance and stamina,
intransigence that has kept the will to struggle for the freedom of his
two remaining political prisoners in the Angola state pen.
The film documents graphically the current state of Louisiana judicial
system and by contrast the United States too. It played to a packed house
with some interesting questions from the floor of the theatre.
The use of CCR (Closed Cell Restricted) form of detention for nearly
forty years means the two remaining prisoners have now suffered numerous
health problems, both physical and of course psychological, due to the
restricted movement in “a hole within a hole”.
“The prison cannot
gain a victory… because he has nothing to be rehabilitated from
or to. He refuses to accept the legitimacy of the system and refuses to
participate. To participate is to admit that the society is legitimate
because of its exploitation of the oppressed… The prison cannot
be victorious because walls, bars, and guards cannot conquer or hold down
an idea” - Huey P. Newton. Black
Both Wallace and Fox were removed from CCR recently by the aid of their
lawyers to different prisons far from Angola but they were then returned
back to solitary. An evil dictator, so called Attorney general of Louisiana
and Republican James D. “Buddy” Caldwell, is using the case
as a “political football” in the words of Robert king. The
law and order debate sound familiar to anybody.
“You have to be a little crazy to stay sane. To be locked up all
those years and stay focused I may well be free of Angola but Angola wont
be free of me”. He pledged to keep fighting till the release of
Wallace and Fox.
To be locked up 23 hours a day 7 days a week and then some, with the
habitual double oppression of guards hamstringing every initiative you
attempt to improve the conditions. For example, the right to eat your
food from a plate like a human being, not an animal which we all take
for granted. For them meals were placed outside the cell so they had to
eat by hand through the bars, they petitioned for 18 months to be served
through a hatch in the cell door, meanwhile Robert king had an improvised
tray holder that others copied just to remain human and dignified.
Aware of the current wave of protest in Wall Street and the euphoria
generated by the Obama election also recent imposition of the death penalty
of Troy Davies an innocent man given the chair. Robert was keen to stress,
as the film showed, that the power to change is within the people. Although
the constitutional rights of the prisoners, in particular the 6th and
14th amendments, were openly violated he thought it wasn’t just
a legal or judicial case but a moral one that we should all take a stand