Monday, March 21, 2011

Festival to feature Death Penalty films

Screenings of two documentaries on the Texas death penalty April 8 will kick off the Rice University portion of the Prison Reform Film Festival 2011.

The films, DEATH ROW (1979) and DON'T KILL MY FATHER (2010) will be followed by a discussion panel with Gloria Rubac of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement; Clarence Brandley, who served a decade on the old death row  before being exonerated and released in 1990, and Dave Atwood of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

The hard-to-find documentary DEATH ROW was filmed with surprisingly few restrictions in the late 1970s on the old death row in the Ellis Unit in Huntsville. DON'T KILL MY FATHER focuses on interviews with family members of death row prisoners like Hank Skinner, Jeff Wood and Robert Garza.

The Prison Reform Film Festival will span five days over two weekends, starting April 2 and 3 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, with back-to-back screenings of an Oscar-nominated film. Most of the screenings will take place April 8, 9 and 10 at Rice, where the festival will follow the vision of Rice Media Center founders Jean and Dominique de Menil by showing a dozen eye-opening documentaries. Discussion panels throughout will encourage audience response.

Volunteers and donations are making the festival possible. Two examples of the group effort are available online:

-- The striking 2011 poster, made by a volunteer graphic artist using a logo created by a group of volunteers -- designer, model, tattoo artist and photographer. The color poster is formatted to print on legal paper, 8-1/2" X 14." Readers are invited to pass along the link, print a copy for personal use, or print several and post them around town:, and
-- The festival website, filled with information about screening times and films. The site was designed and hosted by another volunteer and is located on the website of the main festival sponsor, KPFT's Prison Show. Readers are encouraged to post the link on social networking sites or anywhere they wish:

The Prison Reform Film Festival is dedicated to using cinema to inform and inspire citizens about the need to change prisons in Texas and throughout United States, which houses a quarter of the world's prisoners in a nation containing 5 percent of its population.

Proceeds from the screenings at Rice Media Center April 8-10 will benefit the non-profit, community-sponsored Pacifica flagship station KPFT FM-Houston.

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