Documentaries

The Dhamma Brothers – A Film by Jenny Phillips

The Dhamma Brothers documents the extraordinary convergence of an overcrowded, understaffed, maximum-security prison – considered the end of the line in the Alabama correctional system – and an ancient meditation program. The film tells a dramatic tale of human potential and personal transformation as it follows the stories of 36 prisoners, focusing on 4 central characters, as they enter into this arduous and intensive program. In the namneless, faceless, anonymity of prison life, where daily life is ordered around social control and punishment, The Dhamma Brothers construct an alternative social identity based on brotherhood and spiritual development.

USA, 2007, 76 minutes. Balcony Releasing and Freedom Behind Bars Productions.

Changing from the Inside – A Film by David Donnenfield

This is a compelling account of an intensive pilot meditation program for inmates at a minimum security jail near Seattle, Washington. Under the guidance of both community volunteers and facility staff members, seven women inmates undertake a ten-day silent retreat. They practice an ancient mediation technique called Vipassana for ten hours each day, delving ever deeper into themselves to understand and ultimately master the nature of their behaviors and compulsions. In the end, they are transformed by their inward journey and come away with tools to maintain that transformation.

USA, 1998, 42 minutes. David Donnenfield Productions.

Doing Time, Doing Vipassana – A film by Aylet Menahemi and Eilona Ariel

This award-winning documentary takes viewers into India’s largest prison – known as one of the toughest in the world – and shows the dramatic changes brought about by the introduction of Vipassana meditation. This is a story of a strong woman named Kiran Bedi, the former Inspector General of Prisons in New Delhi. It tells how she strove to transform the notorious Tihar Jail, once a hellhole of crime, into an oasis of peace. It is a story of an ancient mediation technique called Vipassana, as taught by S.N. Goenka, which helps people to take control of their lives and channel them towards their own good and the good of others. Most of all, it is the story of the prison inmates who underwent profound change, and who realized that incarceration is not the end but possibly the beginning of a new life.

India, 1997, 52 minutes. Vipassana Research Institute. Karuna Films.