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‘Beyond Walls’: A Film Screening & Conversation On Abolitionist Filmmaking

Thursday, October 19, 2023, 6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Austin Hall West
Harvard Law School
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Inquest is excited to partner with Working Films and the filmmakers of the Beyond Walls anthology to host a public screening, followed by a discussion about how film can advance the fight to end mass incarceration—and engage responsibly with impacted communities. Registration is free, but space will be limited. Please preregister using the form linked here (and embedded below).

Panelists will include Working Films Director of Campaigns and Strategy Andy Myers, activist-filmmaker Sylvia Ryerson, and formerly incarcerated filmmaker Adamu Chan. Full bios can be found below. The panel discussion will be moderated by Inquest Coeditor-in-Chief (and Harvard professor of law) Andrew Crespo.

Beyond Walls is an organizing initiative featuring documentary films that define and amplify what prison–industrial complex abolition means, while inspiring people to imagine and take action toward a world without policing. Beyond a goal of simply changing hearts and minds, these five short films and screening events offer concrete tools and actions that can be taken to help create a world without police and prisons. Beyond Walls was curated by the Center for Political EducationCritical ResistanceMPD150, and Survived + Punished in partnership with Working Films.

The legacy of prisons and policing is built atop a long history of reinforcing oppressive social and economic practices levied by police officers, guards, ICE officers, and others enforcing state violence. Beyond Walls sheds light on the human spirit that cannot be contained by the carceral system. These films lift up stories of resistance through organizing, maintaining relationships with loved ones, and storytelling that help us demonstrate an abolitionist imagination.


Panelist Bios

Adamu Chan is a filmmaker, writer, and community organizer from the Bay Area who was incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison during one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in the country. He produced numerous short films while incarcerated, using his vantage point and experience as an incarcerated person as a lens to focus the viewer’s gaze on issues related to social justice. In 2021, he was a recipient of the Docs in Action Film Fund through Working Films, and was tapped to produce and direct his film What These Walls Won’t Hold, which won Best Documentary Mid-Length at the 2023 San Francisco international Film Festival. In 2022, Adamu directed a documentary short for the doc-series Bridge Builders, partnering with ITVS/Independent Lens, about a community member working at the intersections of immigration, incarceration, and gender justice. He is also a 2022 Stanford University Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity Mellon Arts Fellow and a 2023 Rockwood Institute Documentary Leaders Fellow. Adamu draws inspiration and energy from the voices of those directly impacted and seeks to empower them to reshape the narratives that have been created about them through film.

Andy Myers joined Working Films in 2011 and now serves as Director of Campaigns and Strategy. A longtime proponent of connecting film with activism, he led the development and implementation of Working Films’ state-based organizing strategy, and co-leads the Docs in Action Film Fund, and Rural Cinema program. Andy facilitates dozens of partnerships between local, state, regional, and national organizations and grassroots groups each year, using documentaries to advance their goals. Andy also appreciates music’s revolutionary role throughout history and currently plays saxophone in the Asheville-based radical marching band Brass Your Heart.

Sylvia Ryerson is a filmmaker, radio producer, and current PhD candidate in American studies at Yale University. Prior to graduate school, she worked at the documentary arts center Appalshop, in Whitesburg, Kentucky, where she served as a reporter and Director of Public Affairs Programming for Appalshop’s community radio station, WMMT-FM. There she co-directed Calls from Home, the station’s longstanding weekly radio program that broadcasts music and toll-free phone messages from family members to their loved ones incarcerated, and Making Connections News, a multimedia community storytelling project documenting efforts for a just transition from the region’s extraction-based coal economy. Her media projects & research questions build from this work and are informed and inspired by movements working to build meaningful solidarities between differently impacted communities on the frontlines of racialized mass incarceration, climate disaster, and economic abandonment. In 2021, she was a recipient of the Docs in Action Film Fund through Working Films to produce and direct her film CALLS FROM HOME, which won the Jack Spadaro Documentary Award for best nonfiction film or television presentation on Appalachia or its people from the Appalachian Studies Association. Her media & written work has appeared in the New York Times, American Quarterly, the Boston Review, Kentucky Educational Television, NPR, the BBC, the Marshall Project, and other outlets. She is a founding member of the Racial Capitalism and the Carceral State Working Group at Yale and of the Building Community Not Prisons coalition currently working to stop the construction of a proposed new federal prison in Letcher County, Kentucky.