posted September 27, 2005

Documentary and Filmmakers to Appear

 "Shakespeare Behind Bars," an award-winning documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2005, will be screened at Hope College on Saturday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. at the Knickerbocker Theatre in downtown Holland.

Following the screening, there will be a question-and-answer session featuring filmmakers Hank Rogerson and Jilann Spitzmiller of Philomath Films; Curt L. Tofteland, founder of the Shakespeare Behind Bars program; and Michelle Bombe, associate professor of theatre at Hope.

Admission to the screening is $7 for the general public, and free for Hope students, faculty and staff.

"Shakespeare Behind Bars" is a feature documentary about the only all-male Shakespeare company in the U.S. prison system. The film follows 20 inmates for nine months as they rehearse and perform a full production of "The Tempest." In the prison atmosphere, theatre changes lives, as the words of Shakespeare act as a catalyst for the men to examine their crimes, and form new ways of thinking about themselves and the world. The men encounter a sense of family they have never known, and some experience a sense of accomplishment for the very first time. "Shakespeare Behind Bars" portrays a group of men who have made horrible errors and performed heinous acts, and who are now faced with performing those same crimes on stage. By doing so, they are making a commitment to the power of redemption, change and forgiveness.

Bombe, who has taught at Hope since 1991, has worked with the program for seven years. Her involvement began through her summer work designing costumes for the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, which started the prison program as part of its educational outreach.

"I am so excited to share this thought-provoking documentary with Hope College

and the Holland community," Bombe said. "It is a perfect match for the way we are trying to encourage students to think creatively about their talents and how they might use them to serve a need in the world. The experiences I have had working with this program have had an enormous impact on my life and the way I view the world. This film will challenge your views about forgiveness, redemption, and the power of art to heal."

"Shakespeare Behind Bars" was filmed two years ago and premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival this past January. Since January, the documentary has screened in more than 20 film festivals around the country (and in Scotland) and has won several awards, including: at the Heartland Film Festival, Indianapolis, Ind., the Crystal Heart Award for Documentary Feature; at the Bluegrass Independent Film Festival, LaGrange, Ky., the Best Regional Filmmaker Thoroughbred Award, Best Documentary Honorable Mention Award and Best Documentary Director's Choice Award; at River's Edge Film Festival, Paducah, Ky., Best Feature Film Award; and at the Independent Film Festival of Boston in Massachusetts, Special Jury Prize for Feature Documentary. The film was also featured on NPR's "The Connection," on April 21, 2005.

Additional screenings and events will be featured on Monday, Oct. 17, at the college's Martha Miller Center for Global Communication in the Fried-Hemenway Auditorium. The guests will participate in a panel discussion on Monday, Oct. 17, at 4:30 p.m., and there will be a screening of the film "Homeland," also produced by Philomath Films, at 6 p.m. and another screening of "Shakespeare Behind Bars" at 8 p.m. A question-and-answer session will follow each screening. Admission to the panel discussion and screening of "Homeland" is free; admission to the Oct. 17 screening of "Shakespeare Behind Bars," like the Oct. 15 presentation, will be $7 for the general public and free for Hope students, faculty and staff.

"Homeland" is the story of four Lakota Indian families living on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Filmed over three years, "Homeland" weaves an intimate portrait of contemporary Native American life through the personal stories of a spiritual leader, a grandmother, a community activist, and an artist. The film balances the harsh realities of reservation life with the strength and vibrancy of the Lakota culture. "Homeland" is an inspiring film which invites the audience to remember the value of humor, family, faith and connection to the natural world.

The Knickerbocker Theatre is located at 86 E. 8th St. The Martha Miller Center for Global Communication is located on Columbia Avenue at 10th Street.