BOI is a 40-60 min visual poetic documentary made up of three portraits that move through a passive to active voice story arch. The story centers experiences of queer masculine identity, Latinx identity and family roots, as well as themes of institutionalization, incarceration, drug addiction, sexual and domestic abuse, intergenerational family violence and healing, sobriety, faith, and personal freedom. BOI is rooted in 15 years of research and relationship building, filmed on location in the Pacific Northwest in Seattle, Tacoma, Yakima, Olympia and Lincoln City.
While the US grapples with the highest rates of incarceration in the world, 629 people per 100,000 (world population review), the world watches tv shows and movies about these experiences, both wanting to understand but also participating in the voyeurism of a culture of punishment and violence.
In the Pacific Northwest of the United States, Sarah, Christina and Sebastian put faces to the lived experiences of repeatedly cycling through prison as Latinx butch and transmasculine individuals. With 15 years of research and relationship building with video documentation, Boys on the Inside illustrates the long term impacts of incarceration, addiction and poverty, offering a unique depth that contrasts the snapshot moments typically shown around these experiences in media.
Mainstream cultural discourse around gender, sexuality and prison systems continues to evolve, as more people become aware of the growing numbers in our prison system as well as the hyper politicization of gender expression. With increased awareness of issues through the media, there is still often a disconnect between those impacted by our legal systems as being ‘in our own backyard.’ While prison is a central theme and character in Boys on the Inside, a place where our storytellers have spent years of their lives, we in fact only experience prison as a character that is known of, heard about, but not seen – something haunting and ever present. Prison as a structure and reflection of our culture, informs the life paths and identities of Sarah, Christina and Sebastian and the people connected to them, which we see played out in many obvious and nuanced ways. BOI explores: What was the role of prison culture in the coming out experiences of these ‘boys’? How is the prison structured and gendered? Where does prison engage with trauma from abuse and addiction? How does the relationship to time in prison present itself in the form and structure of the film?
From Insider Outsider, to Agressives, to Cruel and Unusual, to Orange is the New Black, to Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone’ music video, to Jenni Olson’s new series Mascs, there has and continues to be a growing landscape of stories told about women’s prisons that include the realities of the diversity of gender and sexuality that exists within. Boys on the Inside reveals that our storytellers came into being ‘boys’ while inside women’s prisons, would they not have been ‘boys’ on the inside of themselves without having come of age within prison?
The mundane and beautiful moments showcased in the film of being sober and living stable lives outside of prison is a contrast to the ‘high value’ media most often seen about people inside of US prisons. BOI asks if we are collectively invested as a culture in seeing people heal or watching them in crisis? Boys on the Inside reveals the many layers of how we, and the social actors themselves, view the portrayal of prison and those whose lives it has touched.
The 15 year research process around creating this documentary has been a critical piece of not only showing the long term impacts of incarceration through the majority of an adult life, but it was as well a critical timeline for the development of the director/producer to address internalized oppressive structures implemented within the media industry that do not center working with stories, individuals and communities with the primary intention of breaking cycles of violence and not causing harm. This can be framed as a decolonizing process by the director, a queer White femme, that has been instrumental to the maturity and care within which this production is being handled.
It is important to be bringing this film into completion within the midst of our currently heightened cultural and political landscapes. Ideas of healing the trauma within our own communities is a story that will touch audiences worldwide.
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