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Angola, Do You Hear Us? Oscar Shortlisted Doc Takes on Mass Incarceration

One of the most important documentaries of 2022, Angola Do You Hear Us? Voices from a Plantation Prison has just been shortlisted for an Oscar nomination. The documentary follows esteemed playwright Liza Jessie Peterson as she performs her play The Peculiar Patriot for the incarcerated population living in Angola prison. The documentary follows her performance as it gets shut down in the jail and uplifts the voices of those who live there. 

The documentary’s director, Clinique Northern, explains the significance of Angola’s history, “the reason it’s called Angola is it was formerly a plantation, and a lot of the enslaved people there were from Angola. And so, when it became a prison — and this is 18,000 acres of farmland. When it became a prison, it kept the nickname Angola.”

Prisoners in the documentary explain that their prison population still works on the same land enslaved populations used to work on, “it’s hard in that field, man, because when that summer comes, people will be falling out in that field. They’d take care of a horse before they take care of us, man. The majority are all Blacks in the field. At one time, the men in the field line were 300 strong, and you had 10 white boys.”

Liza Jessie Peterson, the documentary’s playwright, explains how jarring of a scene Angola is, “seeing those white correctional officers on horseback with rifles, I mean, it just looks like something out of the Antebellum South.”

In the United States, the lives and realities incarcerated people face are widely kept from the public. The humanity of our prison population is generally removed from America’s collective consciousness. This documentary illuminates the souls, humanities, and lives of our fellow Americans living behind bars and proves to be a much watch for all of us.

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