A film by Brett Story
2016, 87 minutes
No. 041


An essential documentary, Brett Story’s incisive, investigative and wide-ranging THE PRISON IN TWELVE LANDSCAPES is an examination of the prison and its place – social, economic and psychological – in American society.

Today, more people are imprisoned in the United States than in any other time or place in history, yet the prison itself has never felt further away or more out of sight. Not only are prisons themselves sited farther than ever from the places where most prisoners come from and where most people live, but journalists, filmmakers and researchers are increasingly denied access to the world inside their walls. The prison appears to most of us only in endless Hollywood depictions and reality television, making incarceration invisible and exceedingly familiar at the same time. When one tries to Google map search the address of a particular penitentiary, it often appears as a vast blank space on the screen. It is as if prisons, and the people in them, have been erased.

In this extraordinary documentary, filmmaker Brett Story excavates the often-unseen links and connections that prisons – and our system of mass incarceration – have on communities and industries all around us; from a blazing California mountainside where female prisoners fight raging wildfires to a Bronx warehouse that specializes in prison-approved care packages to an Appalachian coal town betting its future on the promise of new prison jobs to the street where Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson (and to the nearby St. Louis County, where African-Americans are still fending off police harassment, but of a different form).

The Prison in Twelve Landscapes is a sweeping portrait of the prison system, but viewed from the inside-out: through the cinder block walls, the steel gates and razor wires, at the American landscape beyond it.

* Winner, Special Jury Prize, Hot Docs Film Festival
* Winner, EDA Award for Best Female-Directed Film, DOXA Film Festival
* Official Selection, True/False Film Festival
* Official Selection, Art of the Real, Film Society of Lincoln Center

“An ingenious, prismatic approach… subtly and artfully registers how mass incarceration affects society in ways the public can’t always see. Story has made a potent political film without having to spray viewers with a fusillade of alarming numbers to back it up. She trusts viewers to intuit their way through fascinating anecdotes and detours that gain a cumulative power, one that data alone cannot possibly express.”
- Variety

Critic's Pick! "An unexpectedly moving look at the elements of the confinement industry that hide in plain sight... provokes responses that a traditional facts-and-figures discussion might not."
- The New York Times

"It's rare that a film this outraged is also this calm.... Ava DuVernay's 13th indicted America as a machine built to dispense with black men — and to generate profit from this. The Prison in Twelve Landscapes examines the pain that is that machine's other chief output."
- Village Voice

“Fascinating. An unsentimental look at the ways prisons shape life outside their walls… Few, if any, politicos, journalists, pundits or storytellers have approached the subject from such wide-ranging and fresh perspectives as Brett Story does in her new feature documentary.”
- Hollywood Reporter

“A profound and political film that, while not sensational, is quietly shocking.”
- Filmmaker Magazine

“By looking at America’s penal system from a multitude of unconventional angles, Story delivers an immersive, absorbing, and damning film.”
- POV Magazine

"Highly recommended. superbly provides much opportunity for those interested in assisting those who are either in prison or have once been in prison to reclaim productive lives. Individuals and groups interested in criminology, politics, sociology, psychology, or religious ministry will find this film informative, disturbing, thoughtful and motivating. Faculty, students and citizens should view this film."
- Educational Media Reviews Online

“Superb. Engrossing.”
- Film Comment 

"This film by Brett Story is a wonder... It’s a real work of art, but the kind of art that can only be made by someone who understands the deep under-structures of carceral society, carceral geography. The film is beautiful, sad, poetic, and funny, especially the scene when she traipses after [Quicken Loans founder] Dan Gilbert’s spokes-huckster, who is eager to showcase Quicken’s carpetbagging of Detroit."
- Rachel Kushner, author of The Flamethrowers