In Prison My Whole Life (15)

Directed by Marc Evans
Written by Marc Evans and William Francome
Screened at FACT on 25 October

Reviewed by Alfonso Barata

"This is Mumia Abu Jamal…from death row"; this short yet startling introduction serves - in case we had forgotten - as a reminder of the situation Mumia is and has been for the last twenty-seven years.

Mumia Abu Jamal was a journalist and Black Panther militant in Philadelphia at the time of his arrest for the murder of a police officer.

Thanks largely to his regular broadcasts from death row, his books and the high-profile campaigns run on his behalf throughout the world, Abu Jamal remains the best known death row prisoner in the U.S.

In his own words, William Francome is your typical white middle class young American.

So not much in common between these two men then, you may think, except for the fact that Mumia was arrested on the very same day William was born, 9th December 1981.

So William - who since his childhood was reminded of this fact by his mum (also featured in the film) - sets out to find out what’s behind what for many people is a flagrant example of injustice and racism.

Mumia was accused of murdering police officer Daniel Faulkner on that fateful day and swiftly condemned to death. As the film evidences, the racial tensions in Philadelphia since the 1960s had been very present and racism was widespread.

An unfair trial based on racial prejudice and confusing evidence is the basis for Mumia’s lawyers demands for a re-trial; as the documentary uncovers, there is fresh evidence that supports Mumia’s legal representatives' and worldwide human rights activists’ call for a new hearing.

The documentary features familiar faces such as Noam Chomsky and Alice Walker, whose quiet yet powerful denunciation of a racist system that condemned Mumia and many others produces one of the highlights of the film.

There is plenty of evidence in the film that at the very least, should convince any un-biased mind of the difficulties and irregularities of the case presented against Mumia, not least because for the first time and after many years in fearful silence, Mumia’s brother, also present at the scene that day, is prepared to give evidence.

Clearly, Francome's pursuit has an objective: to demonstrate all of the above and help gather support for what he and many more people believe is a legitimate and urgent cause. His no-nonsensical approach ultimately serves this purpose.

Everyone who believes in and fights for human rights should be grateful to William Francome and Marc Evans for enlightening us. However, despite all the efforts, we must not forget that Mumia’s life still hangs in the balance as his legal struggle remains uncertain.

For more information on Mumia’s case and legal updates please visit

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