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P4W: Prison For Women

P4W: Prison for Women

Year: 1981
Language: English
Format: 16mm Colour
Runtime: 80 min
Director: Janis Cole, Holly Dale
Producer: Janis Cole, Holly Dale
Cinematographer: Nesya Shapiro
Editor: Janis Cole, Holly Dale
Sound: Aerlyn Weissman
Production Company: Spectrum Films

Filmmakers Janis Cole and Holly Dale fought with authorities for four years to gain access to the inmates of the Prison for Women, Canada’s only federal jail for women convicted of murder. (The prison is now closed.) The team’s first feature, P4W: Prison for Women is a gripping depiction of love and loneliness in a desperate place.

Once Cole and Dale got behind the prison walls, they spent months getting acquainted with the inmates and discovered a tightly knit community. The women were very eager to talk — so much so that the filmmakers were able to fashion a candid portrait of life in prison, using interviews, monologues and direct cinema sequences. The filmmakers' unobtrusive style perfectly suits the brutal honesty of the inmates’ stories.

Although Dale and Cole don’t approach their subjects with political intent, their consistent attention to the dispossessed is manifest in their work, which is committed, intimate and, ultimately, political. The pair maintain a strict independence, working on very low budgets and sharing all aspects of production, yet, remarkably, they have achieved the rare distinction of successfully penetrating the Canadian theatrical market with feature length documentaries.

P4W: Prison for Women is a poignant portrait of a group of women struggling to maintain their individuality, their sanity and their closest relationships. It won the Genie for best feature documentary in 1982.

Music by Susie and Kas.