Constellation, 3111 N Western, Chicago
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NATURAL LIFE by Tirtza Even
(2013, 77 min)
This screening will show the 77-minute video, an interactive online projection, and new clips from work by Tirtza Even's SAIC student class documenting juveniles serving life-sentences.
Natural Life is a threefold experimental documentary comprised of a 77-minute, single-channel video, a gallery installation and an interactive online archive. The piece challenges inequities in the U.S. juvenile justice system by depicting, through documentation and reenactment, the stories of five individuals of different age, gender, economic background and race, who were sentenced to Life Without Parole (Natural Life) for crimes they committed as youth. The youthful status and/or lesser culpability of these youths, their background and their potential for rehabilitation, were not taken into account at any point in the charging and sentencing process. The five will never be evaluated for change, difference or growth. They will remain in prison till they die.
There are over 2500 inmates in the U.S. who are serving a Life Without Parole sentence for a crime they committed as juveniles. The U.S. is the only country in the world that allows Life Without Parole sentencing for youth.
The project's goal is to portray the ripple-effect that the sentence has had not only on the incarcerated youth and their victims, but also on the community at large. More than fifty hours of interviews with individuals who were involved with the crime, the arrest and the sentencing of the featured inmates were recorded. Among them judges, lawyers, police officers, reporters, wardens, teachers, child psychiatrists, legal experts and victims’ family members.
The interviews were coupled with staged scenes from court and from the main characters’ crime setting, as well as with detailed images of life in prison, reenacted by a group of high-school actors, and shot at an abandoned prison in Michigan.