In 1978 a bus-load of cocky juvenile delinquents are given a day off from school and sent to visit a federal maximum prison for an afternoon as a field trip. They are locked up for in a cell a half an hour. Then the designated “lifers” in jail proceed to scare the air out of the kids with a most graphic, explicit and X-rated picture of what awaits them inside and what their lives will be like if they stay on their current path. The kids, all hardened punks by 17, come out shaking. Like the documentary The Farm, it’s a picture of what to avoid. But unlike most films, it doesn’t stop there. The filmmakers return 20 years later. They track down each of the 15 kids and all of the convicts lifers and re-interview them to see what effect this encounter had. It is simply astounding that all but two of the kids turned their lives around 180 degrees after that one afternoon. It was the most important hours of their lives. Each person attributes the fact they are still alive to that brief meeting. It changes the lifers too. Even those who backslid have remarkable stories about what happened in those few minutes. The film is moving. It gives hope. And the movie itself is almost as good as a visit by lifers. Show it to a kid at risk that you know.
Directed by Arnold Shapiro
1978, 90 min.
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