San Francisco, California
London, United Kingdom
Follow Me Down is a feature-length documentary about music in prison. Shot over the course of two years in three Louisiana prisons, ethnomusicologist Ben Harbert weaves together interviews and performances of extraordinary inmate musicians—some serving life sentences, some new commits and one soon to be released.
The result plays like a concert film, but instead of bright lights and big stages, these musicians rap in okra fields, soothe themselves with R&B in lockdown and create gospel harmonies on the yard. With unprecedented access and Harbert’s insistence on letting the music speak for itself, the film offers an unexpected look at prison life, pushing viewers to reach their own conclusions about music, criminality and humanity.
Decades ago, folklorists visited Louisiana prisons to collect disappearing work songs. Follow Me Down returns to the prisons to ask the question, what is the role of music in prison today?The three acts of the documentary offer different perspectives. At Angola Prison, older lifers seek redemption through song. Yet, the father of Angola’s gospel scene has lost faith in music’s promise. At the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women, apprehensive newcomers audition for the choir. Through these women, we see how music offers hope and community. At Hunt Prison, inmates struggle to maintain their music club despite the unpredictability of administrative support and member commitments. We travel through these prisons as would inmates. Stories are unresolved and mysteries remain. One thing, however, is undeniably clear: the powerful impact of music on those who create it.
The film will be followed by Q&A with filmmaker Ben Harbert.
Producer and director: Ben Harbert
VideoEditor: Christoph Green
Audio Editor: Brendan Canty
Cinematographer: John Slattery
Audio Recordist: Chauncy Godwin
Two-minute trailer: https://vimeo.com/48035769
When & Where
William James Association
William James Association’s
Prison Arts Project
For 36 years, we have acted on the conviction that the fine arts enrich, heal, and bring communities together.
Please join our efforts and consider making a contribution to help us offer hope and healing through meaningful arts experiences for Santa Cruz County Jail and San Quentin Prison residents.