A theatre troupe finds escape from the realities of incarceration through the creativity of putting on a play in this film based on a real-life rehabilitation programme and featuring a cast that includes formerly incarcerated actors.
Based on the real-life arts rehabilitation programme founded at Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Greg Kwedar’s new film follows a troupe of incarcerated actors who work on a play as part of a theatre workshop at the prison.
Every six months, the men gather in a circle of chairs, often looking to Divine G (Colman Domingo) to help decide their next play. When he recruits a new member called Divine Eye, he gets more than he bargained for. The group’s dynamic begins to shift as Divine Eye suggests they do a comedy for the first time, prompting the men to throw out a jumble of wild ideas — from pirate ships to Roman gladiators to Old West gunfights. Flustered at first, Divine G quickly starts to see Divine Eye’s discomfort with the vulnerability required for what seems like a silly pursuit. While planning for his own clemency hearing, he tries to forge a connection with Eye, as the men collectively unpack the pain of their experience while undergoing the joy and escape of creativity.
Domingo gives one of the most memorable and affecting performances of his career, bolstered by a cast made up almost entirely of formerly incarcerated actors and alumni of the Rehabilitation Through the Arts programme. Their participation brings an authenticity to the group’s founding principle that human dignity must be a part of the justice system. Directed with a dynamism that matches the charm, mischief, and compassion of the men themselves, Sing Sing recognizes the value of a place we can gather in which to discuss, debate, and create, wherever that may be. It’s an ode to art as a process, much the same as life, through which we can strive to better understand ourselves and each other.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: themes of suicide; mature themes; violence; coarse language