Music from the Big House Image

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  • Summary: Music From the Big House is an extraordinary story about finding hope, joy and music behind bars. Rita Chiarelli, Canada’s Queen of the Blues, takes a pilgrimage to the birthplace of the Blues: Louisiana State Maximum Security Penitentiary, a.k.a Angola Prison – formerly the bloodiest prison in America. Rita’s trip turns into an historic jailhouse performance, playing with – rather than for – musician inmates serving life sentences. Their shared bond of music, and Chiarelli’s ebullient personality, draw striking revelations from the inmates. Rather than sensational stories of convicts, we witness remarkable voices of hope as their love of music radiates humanity and redemption on their quest for forgiveness. (Matson Films) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 0 out of 5
  2. Negative: 0 out of 5
  1. Reviewed by: Frank Scheck
    Jun 4, 2012
    The proceedings have a certain haunted quality, thanks to the dramatic setting and the stark black-and-white cinematography by Steve Cosens that fully conveys its bleakness.
  2. Reviewed by: John Anderson
    May 30, 2012
    The performances are fun, if musically only adequate -- there are no evident virtuosi languishing within Angola's walls -- and Chiarelli's attempts to frame matters philosophically fall a little flat.
  3. Reviewed by: Benjamin Mercer
    May 30, 2012
    It finally feels too cautious, as if digging a little deeper might compromise the prevailing tone of tentative uplift.
  4. Reviewed by: Robert Abele
    Jun 15, 2012
    Even with a gripping subject like blues-singing convicts, the documentary Music from the Big House has a disconcerting emotional distance.
  5. Reviewed by: Nicolas Rapold
    Jun 6, 2012
    The filmmakers hesitate at going deeper into the dark places of the prisoners' biographies and the storied prison itself. The one wouldn't exist without the other, and Ms. Chiarelli's rambling platitudes are no substitute.
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 2
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 2
  3. Negative: 0 out of 2
  1. Jul 11, 2012
    Disclaimer: I have a thing about prison movies - not sure why. This is perhaps gives the most airtime to inmates who discuss their lives - including their crimes - in a profoundly self-reflexive way. They discuss philosophy, spirituality, forgiveness, redemption with the ease of those who have searched their own souls deeply. In this case, at great length as well. These are all lifers who after imprisonment for their crimes have outgrown their youthful violent, impulsive behavior, and have now arrived at a place where they accept their fate with the equanimity of those of faith. And the music is great too! Expand
  2. Jun 1, 2012
    The birth of true blues does not come from the streets of Louisiana; real music comes from inside the walls of Angola Prison. Rita Chiarelli shows us the powerful music that has developed from these prisoners in the documentary â Collapse