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First Run Features to Premiere HERMAN'S HOUSE 4/19 at NY's Cinema Village

First Run Features announces the U.S. theatrical premiere of HERMAN'S HOUSE, opening April 19, 2013 at New York's Cinema Village.

The injustice of solitary confinement and the transformative power of art are explored in a new feature documentary from first-time director Angad Singh Bhalla. Herman's House follows the unlikely friendship between visual artist Jackie Sumell and Herman Wallace, one of America's most famous inmates, as they collaborate on an unprecedented - and widely acclaimed - art installation.

In 1972, New Orleans native Wallace, while serving a sentence for bank robbery at the notorious Angola penitentiary, became one of the "Angola 3", the renowned Black Panther prisoners who spoke out against inhumane conditions and racial injustice. Some suspect Wallace was accused of murdering a prison guard and thrown into solitary confinement as punishment for his political activities. Although appeals have been (and continue to be) made Herman has remained incarcerated, and - to increasingly widespread outrage - in solitary confinement.

Over 2.2 million people are in jail in the United States. More than 80,000 of that staggering total are in solitary confinement. And Herman Wallace has likely been there longer than anyone: 40 years and counting.

In 2001, when artist Jackie Summell heard the story of Robert King, one of the "The Angola 3", she asked the former inmate what she could do. His answer was simple, "Write my comrades." So began her correspondence with the two other inmates. After about eight months of organizing on behalf of the two as a grad student at Stanford University, Jackie began to see Herman's condition deteriorate rapidly and as an attempt to offer some relief she asked, "What kind of a house does a man who has lived in a six-foot-by-nine-foot cell for over 30 years dream of?"

Thus began an inspired creative dialogue, unfolding over hundreds of letters and phone calls, and yielding a multi-faceted project whose first fruit is the exhibition entitled The House That Herman Built. This revelatory art installation, featuring a full-scale model of Herman's cell and detailed plans of his dream home, has brought thousands of people around the world face-to-face with the harsh realities of America's prison system.

As Herman's House reveals, the exhibition is just the beginning. Herman next asks Jackie to make his dream a reality. After 4 decades of spending 23 hours a day in his cell (a practice many civilized nations consider torture) and waiting to find out if the Louisiana courts will hear his latest appeal, he and Jackie are now looking for land where they can build.

With compassion and artistry, Herman's House takes us inside the lives and imaginations of two unforgettable characters as they forge a friendship and build a dream - a dream that one day may help bring to an end the cruel practice of long-term solitary confinement. In partnership with leading human rights organizations across the country, the filmmakers are launching a national community engagement campaign to engage legislators and community leaders in screenings and discussions on reforming solitary confinement. Follow The Campaign on Facebook and Twitter.

Canadian filmmaker Angad Singh Bhalla, is a director passionate about using media as a tool for social change. His film U.A.I.L. Go Back, was used widely as an organizing tool and helped pressure the Canadian company Alcan to end its involvement in a project in India. His award-winning short on the lives of Indian street artists, Writings on the Wall was broadcast on PBS, Canada's Bravo!, and Al Jazeera English. Herman's House is his first feature documentary. Bhalla has produced work for labor unions, Human Rights Watch and The Center for Constitutional Rights. He is also a community organizer for immigrant rights and an editor on broadcast documentaries. He is currently in production with the National Film Board of Canada on Inside Herman's House, a companion web-based interactive project slated for release in 2013.

HERMAN'S HOUSE
81 minutes, 2012, Canada, Color and Black & White
Writer/Director: Angad Singh Bhalla
Producer: Lisa Valencia-Svensson, Angad Singh Bhalla
Executive Producer: Ed Barreveld, Loring McAlpin
Editor: Ricardo Acosta
DOP: Iris Ng, Angad Singh Bhalla


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