The Farm: Angola, USA (1998) Poster

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Truth is more telling than fiction
snoopy30 March 1999
In the tradition of other great documentaries (Hoop Dreams, The Thin Blue Line, etc.), the makers of "The Farm" tell a story that needs to be told by acquiring unprecedented access to their subject. In the process, they illuminate a host of issues about the penal and criminal justice systems.

The most remarkable thing about this film is how quietly and stoically the story is told. Preachiness and sensationalism are nowhere to be found. An example: one of the most difficult scenes in the film concerns a prisoner on death row. While most films treat capital punishment melodramatically, this film shows the remnants of his last meal interposed with voiceovers of his family and his fellow inmates bidding him farewell. No matter what gratification people may receive from giving 'dangerous criminals' a death sentence, the issues will always be far more complex.

Perhaps the most unforgettable scene is at a parole hearing where the hypocrisy of the review board is captured on film, as if the officials had forgotten that the camera was still on.

The Angola Penitentiary is one of the toughest, most unforgiving prisons in the United States. But it is that way because society's most monstrous assumptions have perpetuated a cycle of despair, irrationality, and ignorance. That two filmmakers could expose such qualities with a modest budget and an unflinching eye is a testament to where film can take us.
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Extremely well done
hydrates28 June 2005
I just saw this documentary on Cable last night and I was blown away. This is extremely well put together and the individuals portrayed are all deserving of having their stories told. I believe it shows a positive side to our penal system even if the stories can be somewhat depressing. Most of the men portrayed have obviously been reformed by their time in prison which is a contrast to what I believed our prison system did to individuals. Most of these men have looked inward and sought the need for change, and have seized the opportunity to reform there lives, often times looking toward God. The main question you will walk away with is, "Do convicted criminals deserve a 2nd chance if it is shown that they have changed?" This question opens many others, which is why this film is so powerful. Be ready to think.
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Gripping documentary detailing the lives of six prisoners
hampton7019 March 1999
The Farm is easily the best documentary I have seen this year. It takes you on an inside look into the lives of six inmates at Angola State Prison. Ironically Angola was a slave plantation, it now is a maximum security prison. Not like other prison documentaries that I've seen. No preachiness.

Just Powerful unintrusive film making. Check this out. It's worth it.
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Remind me not to get incarcerated.
youaresquishy17 July 2005
This film gives us insights into the value of freedom from the point of view of the long-time prisoner, and psychological mechanisms by which such prisoners attempt to deal with their plights, including at least one on death row. If you know someone you think might be headed for a life of crime, this should be your Christmas gift to them. Might even be required viewing for the unruly adolescent boys in the family. This film would likely make one think twice or three times before committing a felony. The value of not being in prison has never been more clear to me.

The warden comes across as a pretty interesting character. We see an actual parole board hearing, which is fascinating, as well as a hearing before a board of pardons. Therein lie some interesting insights into the victims' perspectives, which contrast sharply with the perspectives of the prisoners, and even that of the prison warden.

It gives only a very faint outline of some portions of the history and structure of the Angola prison. Angola is not what this film is really about.

Very well edited to tell a good story, never boring and not too long, and at the very least will make you appreciate not being in prison like no other film I have ever seen. A great documentary and a testament to the potentially life-altering power of film.
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Perfect evocation of what it is to be a "lifer."
mizkwebb23 August 1999
This film should be required viewing for all high school students. It is a documentary featuring 6 inmates at the notorious prison in Angola, Louisiana. The strong implication is that the only way to be released from a lifer's existence at Angola is to die. The interviewing is very skillful, and reveals a great deal of the personalities of the six men. The sham of a "parole hearing" for one of the men is especially shocking and depressing. It would be hard for a thinking personal to see this film, and not reconsider America's hardened stance that no criminals deserve a second chance. It is a classic!
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One Of The Best Documentaries I've Ever Seen
Pumpkin-225 July 1999
"The Farm" is an absolutely powerful look at the lives of inmates at Angola Prison. It is inspiring to see that some of these men haven't given up on life, in spite of parole denials and other obstacles. The movie belongs on the short list of recent documentaries that transcend the genre. Films like "Crumb" and "The Thin Blue Line" and "Four Little Girls". A must see. It is impossible to come away from this extraordinary film without being moved.
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The Farm: Angola
Deborah Briggs1 February 2005
My husband and I thought this was very well done and found it very insightful into the life of a prisoner. I was so pleased that so many of these men are trying to better their lives and reach out to others. But, I have to say I was most troubled by Vincent Simmons........that he has been denied to a retrial based on what was presented at his parole hearing. For a woman to get up there and say 'they all look a like' shows she is ignorant & prejudice. He was the only man in the line up in handcuffs & a doctors says the girl was a virgin! OMG I could not believe it when they denied him a retrial. I can only pray that someone in a position to help this man also saw this because I know he was in my prayers. I work in a middle school dealing with kids in In School Suspension and they always say I didn't do it even when I know they did. I will jokingly say oh, yeah all the people in prison say they are innocent too! How sad to have this happen and you may really be innocent. All the men that were interviewed were all in my prayers last night.
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The Bishop Speaking
ilovegirforever25 October 2007
I haven't seen this documentary yet, but the Bishop was freed in August of this year, and He spoke at my school today. His Story is Really inspirational! It was amazing to see what God did in his life during his 51 years and 4 1/2 months in Angola. He has only been out for like 8 weeks, but he already has a cell phone, it went off a few times during his speech! He seems totally cool though. It's amazing how God can change peoples lives so dramatically.

We heard about the Bishops time before he went to Angola, and then his time changing Angola, and then his few days after being freed. I Hope This Documentary lives up to what I heard today!
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inside a real prison
trooperbias7 November 2017
Burt Cain is a hero. He represents how a prison should be run. Like it or disagree Mr.Cain incorporated religion/GOD into the equation that allows some hope and a way to serve their sentence without violence.

He allowed true leadership to his employees also. There were one death sentence carried out in this documentary and he gave this man hope of an afterlife and the man asked to hold the wardens hand when put to death.

It in our opinion is murder when they put one to death but when it is your wife,mother,father etc..It tends not to be viewed as murder and becomes justified homicide.

anyway this will be viewed as one of the best prison documentaries for years to come.
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Compelling. Terrific.
emmaeus8 October 2004
Have your kids or students watch this. It's interesting and will provide lots of fodder for discussion about choices in life and their consequences, family, faith, and hope. As others have mentioned, the parole board hearing is of particular interest. You might find yourself shaking your head, as I did. By the way, there is no bad language--as compared to "Scared Straight" for example, so you needn't concern yourself with pre-screening. Outstanding job by filmmakers who stay in the background and let the characters be the story. If you're not familiar with Scared Straight and its sequel, be sure to check it out as well. Note: This is the prison depicted in Oliver Stone's "JFK," where Jim Garrison interviews hustler Willie O'Keefe (Kevin Bacon).
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What's with the SLOW pace these days?
targa91 July 2015
I was so bored after wasting 25 minutes on this, I shut it off. We are introduced to a killer who just arrived at Angola for his life sentence, and during the next 20 minutes, we're supposed to sympathize with him as he gets his prison clothes, the cops going through his photos, and how he says he's scared he might never get to see his family again.

Boo hoo. What about the victim? The pace was just ridiculously slow, and I had no pity for this monster, who probably deserved death anyway.

The opening shot is a slow scene of a hearse arriving, and prisoners getting out of a bus, I guess to bury one of their own. We are supposed to feel like "wow, Angola is hard-nobody gets out alive", but I kept thinking, "Why are they spending tax dollars on fancy hearses for convicts and having funerals??"

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