Civil Brand

Director: Neema Barnette
Screenwriters: Joyce Lewis, Preston Whitmore

Institute History

  • 2003 Sundance Film Festival


When Frances Shepherd, a beautiful young nurse and mother, is incarcerated for killing her abusive husband, she doesn't realize that she has just become a newly initiated working member of one of the most profitable businesses in America—the prison industrial complex. Once she steps through the maximum-security gates of Whitehead Correctional, she not only joins a community of hardened criminals but a "new plantation" workplace funded by corporate interests that harvest human labor for profit. When the slavelike conditions become overwhelmingly abusive, the female inmates band together and strike back, but the odds are stacked against them. After all, who ever heard of women taking over a prison?

Neema Barnette's first silver-screen film is a brave and spirited, against-all-odds effort that freshly breathes political purpose into the prison-film genre. Bumping large with attitude, energy, and hip-hop beats and featuring onscreen performances by rap stars DaBrat, MC Lyte, and Mos Def, Civil Brand fiercely takes on the industrial superstructure and gender persecution that women face in today's prison system and invests them with style and significance.

— Shari Frilot

Screening Details

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