AO NORTE - Association for Audiovisual Production and Animation
Directorate-General of Reintegration and Prison Services (Ministry of Justice)
Viana do Castelo Prison Establishment
We seek to provide Viana do Castelo Prison (VCPE) inmates with audio-visual training, to create short films & photographies, promoting expression through arts. Focusing on imagined realities inside/outside the prison, forming a civic voice through incarceration experiences. Works will be presented both in prison and in public exhibitions, reaching a variety of audiences and inviting outside feedback. Screenings in prison & debates contribute for critical reasoning. Resulting in a book catalogue.
Viana do Castelo Prison and AO NORTE exhibition gallery in Viana do Castelo, northwestern Portugal.
Small towns such as Viana do Castelo, with few cultural organizations, civic or art initiatives, also lack robust funding for art. This scarcity is felt in prisons which, coupled with negative public perceptions about inmates/prisons, makes rehabilitation through engagement in culture very rare. The Portuguese penal code allows for the development of cultural activities in prisons, aiming to enrich inmates with critical cognitive tools for interpreting the world and providing opportunities to engage with cultural life in ways that they did not experience before. Cultural engagement - considered a crucial element in the inmate rehabilitation process - reduces stress and nurtures attitudes and discussion around issues such as citizenship, individual responsibility, and collaboration.
One of the greatest obstacles regarding prison reform is the broader societal perception with regards to inmates, their life trajectories, and their capacity to rehabilitate and return from their sentence as fully realized, active citizens. As such, while artistic work by inmates carries intrinsic value, there are also additional benefits with exposing such works to an outside audience. Allowing inmates to voice their imagined realities humanizes inmates and the prison system. It is argued that promoting culture and the arts in a prison system is, then, also a way to bolster the democratic health of public institutions, allowing for inmates to be regarded as active and valid citizens, which also doubles back into nurturing and empowering inmates through their humanization.
The inmate population in Portuguese prisons is primarily composed by men and women broadly considered to be lower class. The Viana do Castelo Prison Establishment houses male inmates convicted of crimes under a 5 year sentence, most of them coming from social contexts that are severely deprived in access to culture, education and opportunities. While these “cultural deserts” are often the recipients of cultural programs, prisons remain largely underserved. Bolstering expression through audio-visual means allows inmates a medium to express themselves as well as being educated in a range of useful techniques and skills. The project will impact not only inmates but the prison space, as well as in the public space, and schools (educators and students) with whom we will work.
Set to develop from January to November 2021 with four phases: pre-production, photography and film production, editing and result showcase. Pre-production will consist of establishing the participant inmates alongside with the preparation of stories and scripts to realize in the photography and film phases. From February through March the workshops will take place. In April the results will be edited and prepared for preliminary showcasing in the film festival Viana Film Meetings, in May. Works will be finalized in June-July and published in November. Particular attention will be given to the development of the Covid-19 pandemic, considering the potentially vulnerable situation of prison inmates, with precautions followed under governmental and VCPE guidelines.
Prison inmates will be able to show tangible creative results under their own name. By expressing themselves through video and photography, and by being a part of works available for other inmates in the prison library as well as receiving feedback from fellow citizens, inmates will show the creative potential in prisons: a standing example of the possibilities available within a prison environment - incarceration does not have to be the end of a person’s life. Prison can be a place for opportunity and personal growth, for questioning ourselves (both the public of a small town and the inmates) what is a valid citizen in our societies and how choices and opportunities shape us. Ideally, the lasting impact will inspire other inmates and motivate prison staff to welcome new creative ideas.
The health of (European) democracies can be adequately measured by the functioning of the states’ institutions, especially those that handle marginalized, vulnerable or otherwise institutionalized populations. Prisons are central institutions, around which the entire penal system revolves. Proactive attitudes towards prisoner welfare and rehabilitation, through educational, civic and artistic programs, are powerful indicators of the democratic health in a society. The visibility provided by audiovisual media, the power it carries to give people a voice and to bring light to otherwise ignored facets of society, makes it an ideal means to approach the permanent work of democracy and citizenship-building - in a stronger and permanently in construction European democracy.
All three team members, alongside with AO NORTE, are actively involved in community-building and cultural activism. All three team members have established research and works in prison settings. In different fields, and through audio-visual languages, we are committed to building a culturally diverse and informed society. As a cineclub and an NGO, AO NORTE is dedicated to broadening the reach of its initiatives to new and challenging fields of intervention. Film and photography are part of the cultural life of citizens, and we believe that that includes those who are incarcerated. Culture and the arts are important fields of intervention for the rehabilitation of inmates. At the same time, film and photography are important languages to bring awareness to inmates' lives and experiences.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
1. Personnel costs - 24500 EUR
- Team: 21000 EUR
- Support (film): 1000 EUR
- Accounting and management: 2500 EUR (1500 EUR + 1000 EUR contribution in staff by AO NORTE)
2. Equipment costs - 6000 EUR
- Exhibit + props 3000 EUR
- Film and editing equipment 3000 EUR (1500 EUR + 1500 EUR contribution in equipment by AO NORTE)
3. Travel and accommodation costs - 2500 EUR
- Team - 1500 EUR
- Guests - 1000 EUR
4. Publishing - 17500 EUR
Any suggestions on the possibilities given with the materials that are created are welcome. We also welcome comments and suggestions with regards to bolstering the communication between the inside and outside of prison, and feedback for the inmates.