Wednesday, April 17, 2013
West of Memphis), the new documentary, HERMAN'S HOUSE, tells the story of Herman Wallace, an inmate of Louisiana's infamous Angola Prison (also known as The Farm), initially imprisoned for bank robbery and later into permanent solitary confinement for supposedly murdering a prison guard. Although proof of Wallace's guilt is meager, it seems more likely that the man is being punished for being part of the Angola 3, Black Panther prisoners who spoke out against inhumane prison conditions and racial injustice.
Jackie Summell (above) heard about the Angola 3 and began a correspondence with them, which led to her to connect in particular with Mr. Wallace, who by then had been in solitary confinement in a six-foot by 9-foot cell for 30 years. When she asked herself, "What kind of house would someone like this dream about?" plans for that house, the "art installation" they eventually became, and now this rather odd movie were the result.
Angad Singh Bhalla, shown at left, a Canadian filmmaker who, according to his bio, is "passionate about using media as a tool for social change." He has concocted a not uninte-resting film about Herman and his house and the artist that made this possible without going very deeply into any of the above. Consequently we learn what is going on via some details, but we almost always want more: more about the artist, about Herman, about their relationship, and especially about the case against Herman -- and what is being done with and about it.
Instead, we get a lot of time spent with Jackie as she searches the New Orleans area for a plot of land on which to build, if I understood things correctly, a real house for Herman. And herself? Together someday? We don't really know, as the movie doesn't go there. Not exactly. What kind of relationship is this? We never know. (And as the artist clearly does not have enough money for this house project, it seems, well, awfully risky.)
Samuel L. Jackson plays in Django Unchained and a tired and fully brainwashed modern U.S. citizen. Their conversation ends in a draw, with the inevitable have-a-good-day sign-off.
Herman's House, from First Run Features and lasting 81 minutes, opens this Friday, April 19, in New York City at the Cinema Village, with three other cities on the docket soon. You can check all currently scheduled playdates by clicking here.