From filmmaker Susanne Mason:
For people not familiar with southern prison history, or the conditions that make incarceration difficult, I hope the story of Fred Cruz will strike them as essential viewing. The story of his bravery and self-sacrifice goes deeper than simply that of a civil rights leader, to show how race and class consigned him to certain social and economic conditions that his intellect could overcome, but perhaps his heart could not.
For people who are familiar with prison, either because they have a family member or friend inside, or have been incarcerated themselves, I hope Fred Cruz’s story will inspire their confidence in the legal process as an avenue for pursuing reform.
More than anything, I hope viewers will find Cruz’s story compelling and provocative enough to inspire them to think about how we as a society can address—and prevent—“crime problems” and “troubled” youth more effectively. I’d like viewers to recognize that prisons, by their very nature, have a very limited capacity to inspire self-improvement or empower prisoners to make personal changes.
Ultimately, the prisoner’s problem is our problem. The more we in our communities, as engaged citizens, can work together and dedicate ourselves to supporting healthy public institutions, especially schools and parks and cultural organizations that foster the arts and sciences and provide a good education for all Americans, the better we can prevent social decline and crime.
Three of her favorite films:
Among many other favorites are: Salesman, Hearts & Minds and Thin Blue Line.
Her advice for aspiring filmmakers:
There’s film as art and there’s film as commerce. If you can figure out how to do one film that fits both, without selling out, start grant writing now.
Her most inspirational food for making independent film:
Adequate amounts of beans and rice with salsa can be enough to keep you going for a while. No, really, I think the desire to know and understand your subject, and the places that takes your imagination, will nourish you and your work. Feed your heart and mind.
Susanne Mason has served as associate producer on a variety of public television documentaries, including Are the Kids Alright? (2004 Regional PBS); Struggle in the Fields (1996 National PBS); Songs of the Homeland (1994, National PBS) and Go Back to Mexico! (1994, Frontline, National PBS). More recently, she wrote, produced and directed short documentaries about the history of Austin, Texas, for the Save Our Springs Alliance and Watershed Productions, including Town in Transition, a short doc about growth in the Texas capital between 1950 and 1975. Mason’s first film, Stories from the Riverside (1993), a 28-minute documentary that explores domestic homicide through the stories of three women incarcerated for murdering their abusive husbands, received a Silver Apple from the National Educational Film and Video Festival, among other honors.