Our partner, Equitas Entertainment, is premiering their newest film, Imprisoned, across the United States. A production company dedicated to social impact, Equitas shares stories that give voice to underrepresented populations in current media.
Written roughly 10 years ago, the story of Imprisoned is inspired by writer Paul Kampf’s work teaching theatre in prisons. It is a story of revenge and forgiveness that challenges the viewers own moral standing. It asks us to reevaluate everything we think we know about people.
Can we change?
Can we forgive others?
Can we forgive ourselves?
Executive producer Holly Levow formed Equitas Entertainment in collaboration with Paul Kampf and Tom Sperry to produce films that are made responsibly. This means paying all cast members according to their role, and not their gender. It means hiring and compensating currently incarcerated men to be in Imprisoned. It means creating a dual-language movie to fully depict Puerto Rico.
Equitas is so dedicated to preserving the integrity of their film, they actually went through the process of purchasing back their movie once they learned of the alterations that were going to be made to the final version. They did not want to create an excessively violent, or sex-filled movie. They know that a good storyline is enough to keep viewers engaged. In the film industry, Equitas Entertainment is a breath of fresh air.
Imprisoned has a blend of familiar and fresh faces each as talented as the next. Audiences might recognize Jon Huertas, of Castle and This Is Us fame. Of Puerto Rican and Afro-Caribbean descent, Jon jumped at the chance to be in a movie that wasn’t just filmed in Puerto Rico, but was actually set there. Holly spent time talking with me about the importance of thoughtful casting, and this was something Jon’s interview echoed. While so much of the world is working to stop profiling, Hollywood still profiles in a major way. Latinx actors often find themselves squished into roles that are caricatures and stereotypes. In big Hollywood you can be seen as ‘Too Latinx’ or ‘Not Latinx enough.’ When starting his acting career, Jon was denied the part of a rapist in a crime show due to not being ‘Latino enough.’ This type-casting is psychologically damaging to both the individual and society. By casting thoughtfully, Equitas puts characters on the screen that audiences can relate to, that they want to relate to. Three-dimensional characters with their own personal narrative and drive.
The plot of Imprisoned confronts the long-debated issue of the death penalty, as well as wrongful convictions and the treatment of incarcerated populations in the United States. I asked Jon about filming the movie, and what it was like to get into character while exploring such a complicated storyline. His answer is something I’ve been thinking about a lot since:
“I call myself a humanist. I don’t subscribe to a supernatural set of rules. We all know how we’re supposed to treat each other, but we’re influenced by our environment. [..] I think about living tribally. We are all each others responsibility. We should be taking care of each other. If someone makes a mistake, the justice system should be about reforming. About learning.”
PeaceLove has always believed in the power of storytelling, and what are movies, if not the most global, wide-reaching form of that? Movies have the power to shape us, and change us. We can only dream as far as we can see ourselves. We need to see strong women in leading roles. We need to see men expressing their emotions. We need to see characters who defy the false narrative that straight, white, able-bodied, men are the default. More than anything, we need to see love. And we need to see it everywhere. When love and all its offsets— forgiveness, hope, courage, and passion— are modeled for us, we can choose to accept it for ourselves.
When we see a movie, we lend ourselves to its profit. Movies that make money are seen as in demand, and more movies are made in that essence. This is why it is important to hold our media accountable, and to create demand for responsible movies. Movies that support equal pay, that have diverse casts and storylines. As consumers, we have the right and responsibility to demand ethical entertainment.
In every city Imprisoned will premiere, Equitas has agreed to fund the training of a CREATOR to work with incarcerated populations. With this, they are ensuring that Imprisoned will have a lasting impact on the community the movie is inspired by. We are excited at this opportunity to train more CREATORS to work with the jail and prison systems to provide pockets of love, creativity, and reflection for incarcerated populations.