IMDb > Music from the Big House (2010)

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Music from the Big House -- From acclaimed director Bruce McDonald comes a rare, musical documentary starring award-winning recording Blues artist Rita Chiarelli and the inmates of Angola Prison. Not since Johnny Cash took stage at Folsom Prison has the love of music promised humanity and redemption to men serving life sentences for crimes as heinous a murder, rape and armed robbery.

With a deeply rooted legacy of great Blues music, Angola’s bloody history can not dissuade Rita’s personal pilgrimage to recover the talent and desperate voices of the musicians within. Commanding an audience of some 800 inmates with family and country folk cobbled in, Rita raises the roof in a collaborative jailhouse performance with men who have little else to live for. It is history written anew – thanks to Warden Burl Cain’s progressive, if not controversial, rehabilitation programs.

The prison’s music program has offered hope to inmates like Ray Jones, a man who rather be remembered for his days singing disco in the 70’s. But he’ll never leave with his murder rap. He’s since found God, and devotes himself to the legal studies that might help other inmates with their cases. Above all he’s found his voice, but as only one out of the 5000 inmate voices, Ray takes the stage again to have his full potential felt and heard.

Steeped with hope and imploring for forgiveness, these remarkable voices guide on the journey of men and their bands in quest for redemption. What was once just about the Blues now becomes a life changing experience for Rita. Be swept away by one of Blues’ most soulful pilgrim daughters, and discover the promise and escape of music.

One woman, four bands, two hours of the Blues. It’s time to make a new soundtrack.


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Release Date:
1 June 2012 (USA) See more »
Rita Chiarelli's exploration of Louisiana's Angola Prison, its inmates and the blues music tradition they perform with her. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
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This movie speaks tons See more (11 total) »



Directed by
Bruce McDonald 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Tony Burgess 
Erin Faith Young 

Produced by
Richard Meaney .... associate producer
Jennifer St. John .... producer
Erin Faith Young .... producer
Original Music by
Rita Chiarelli 
Christopher Guglick 
John Hazen 
Léah Lazonick 
Cinematography by
Steve Cosens 
Film Editing by
Eamonn O'Connor 
Sound Department
Robert C. Bigelow .... location sound recordist (as Robert Bigelow)
John Hazen .... sound supervisor
Trevor King .... sound operator
Camera and Electrical Department
Sabre Dane .... camera operator (as Sabre Walker)
Sabre Dane .... second unit: cinematographer (as Sabre Walker)
Sabre Dane .... still photographer (as Sabre Walker)
John Price .... camera operator
Editorial Department
Mike Anderson .... assistant editor
David Hedley .... colorist
Stphanie Liberi .... on-line editor
Jonathan Liebert .... digital cinema mastering
Other crew
Jennifer Di Cresce .... production coordinator
Jose Figueroa-Baez .... production assistant
Natasha Khatwani .... assistant production coordinator
Curry Leamen .... post production intern
Monica Penner .... researcher
María Alejandra Morales .... intern/usa tour coordinator (uncredited)

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

90 min


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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful.
This movie speaks tons, 15 May 2012
Author: dylandawg87 from U.S.

Music from the Big House begins humbly enough, with a myriad of inmates telling their musical roots. Rita Chiarelli seeks to go back to the roots of the blues, Angola Prison Louisiana. This is where the magic happens. Taking the time to assemble 4 different bands, Rita masterfully guides the inmates learning their past, while teaching her own. Together they make nothing short of a masterpiece. Music from the Big House grants a beautiful look into the hearts and souls of these men. Introducing you to the new souls, the men of hope, looking out of their harrowing homes and into the heavens for salvation. Rita becomes their angel in garb, dealing out guitars, keyboards, and drums; making the blues resonate from the stonewalls of Angola Prison. I loved the simple black and white film, each shadowed grain only intensified emotions of the graveled voices. Chiarelli guides us humbly, granting us with an open-hearted look into the real men and their music.

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