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16 BARS is a feature length music documentary that offers a rare glimpse at the human stories — and songs — that are locked away in our nation’s jails and prisons. The film follows a unique rehabilitation effort in the Richmond City Justice Center that invites inmates to write and record original music. In the jail’s makeshift recording studio, 4 men collaborate on an album with a Grammy®-winning recording artist, Todd “Speech” Thomas, from the iconic activist hip-hop group Arrested Development. As the creative process unfurls, each of these men must unearth painful memories from the past, which hold a key to a new chapter in their lives. 


The film is set in Richmond Virginia, the former seat of the confederacy, where the legacy of systemic racism, a spiraling opioid crisis, generational poverty, and a lack of mental health services have entrapped many of its citizens in a cycle of incarceration, making the city itself a unique case study for rising recidivism rates in the U.S. at large. With the U.S. locking up more of its citizens per capita than any other nation on the planet, the music of the film serves as rare testimony to the raw and messy truth behind the criminal justice system’s revolving door.


ADDITIONAL FILM INFO

The Vocabulary of Re-entry

Key Issues


MUSIC VIDEOS

Inspire (Teddy Kane)

Lay My Burden Down  (Garland Carr)

Freedom Wind (Garland Carr)

Lost One (Teddy Kane)


RADIO INTERVIEW

Click here to listen to a radio interview with Speech Thomas.

  • Year
    2018
  • Runtime
    94 minutes
  • Language
    English
  • Country
    United States
  • Director
    SAM BATHRICK
  • Producer
    ADAM BARTON
  • Editor
    Al SHURMAN