John Brown's Body at San Quentin Prison

  • Facing Fear Facing Fear


Sequoia 1 Sun, Oct 13, 2013 2:00 PM
Film Info
Section:Valley of the Docs
Running Time:72
Director:Joseph De Francesco
Screenwriter:Michael Anderson
Cinematographer:Joseph De Francesco
Joe De Francesco


View Trailer HERE

World Premiere

The unifying power of art takes center stage in this stirring and surprising documentary about a group of actor-inmates who discover their inner-thespians amid the harsh reality of hard time. In 2002, filmmaker Joe De Francesco had an inspired idea: What if he produced a stage version of the Civil War poem “John Brown’s Body” with San Quentin inmates? The fascinating result is a group of multiracial prisoners performing a drama about slavery and liberation for peers and the authorities. De Francesco’s film focuses on the preparation, performance and aftermath of this life-changing event as current and former inmates reflect on what it meant to be plucked from the monotony of life behind bars and given the opportunity to express themselves on stage about issues of race and liberty. Absorbing and emotionally charged, “John Brown’s Body” at San Quentin Prison illuminates the undeniable connection between creative freedom and spiritual fulfillment.

—Brendan Peterson



Included Shorts

Facing Fear (23min) More

Additional Information

Joseph De Francesco, Director of John Brown’s Body at San Quentin Prison (both of the live performance of the staged play and this documentary of the inmate-actors) has collaborated as producer, director or editor on numerous award-winning social documentaries for more than thirty years, starting with his acclaimed film of the life and work of Maria Montessori, Follow The Child. He has shared Academy awards for theatrical documentaries (The Panama Deception, Freedom On My Mind) and Emmys (Chinatown and The Fillmore, from the PBS series, The Hidden Cities of San Francisco). He recently completed a seven-year project at Skywalker Ranch as editor of almost thirty historical documentaries for George Lucas’s educational project to “tell the stories of people and events that shaped the twentieth century.”