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What I Want My Words to Do to You: Voices from Inside a Women's Maximum Security Prison (2003)

A look at playwright Eve Ensler's writing workshop inside Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women.


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A look at playwright Eve Ensler's writing workshop inside Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women.

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20 January 2003 (USA)  »

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Excellent glimpse of "who we might have been"
25 November 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I've done some work in prisons, so I had an intellectual understanding that prisons are a world unto themselves, with their own rules and consequences. This documentary went far beyond that, showing instead the women inside the prison sentences.

While IMDb lists Hollywood "names" as the stars of this picture, the real stars are the inmates themselves, who respond to every request that Eve Ensler makes that they go deeper or look more closely at what they've done -- but more importantly, *who they are.*

The greatest thing I gained from seeing this was a glimpse of the women who live inside and around the crimes. While only a starting point, it's the beginning of understanding that any of us is capable of criminal acts. But more than that, this film asks, "Then what??" As is said several times by one of the women prisoners, "life goes on." *How* does life go on? How do you live with it 6 months down the road, 6 years, 15 years? How does your perception of life and self change as you fill the hours to pass one more day, then another?

This was a fascinating, poignant, moving film. The biggest drawback was the camera's/editor's love affair with Glenn Close. I agree with other reviewers that the scenes with the actresses doing beginning read-throughs were somewhat distracting, but the incessant focus on Close was downright irritating.

I also thought the contrast between the inmates' readings and the actresses' readings of the same words was highly intriguing. Most of the inmates are monotone, like most people are when reading. The actresses seem almost over the top in comparison, but I'll bet it made a powerhouse performance when experienced live. If nothing else, this would be a good documentary for actors to see in order to witness the transformation of script -- plus to find some incredibly moving monologues!

This is one I'll think about for a long time. I'm glad I saw it. In some small way, it has changed me.

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