What does it take to fully turn a life around? How difficult is it and how much effort does it require to go from an illiterate convict to an award winning poet? Daniel Glick explores just that in his documentary, A Place To Stand. The documentary explores the life of Jimmy Santiago Baca who served a 5-year narcotics sentence at the state prison in Florence, AZ. Daniel brought his documentary film to Kickstarter with the hopes of raising $50,000 to cover the remaining production costs. He has already successfully raised over $40,000. We had a chance to talk to Daniel about the film and his inspiration for it.
Q: Where did the inspiration for this documentary come from? What was it about this project that called to you?
Daniel: This film was conceived during my first visit to a prison. Within moments of entering, I felt a massive disconnect between the language and the reality of prison. They are called “correctional facilities,” but I didn’t see anything being corrected. I saw a population of greatly underserved people – prisoners – who were not being given a chance at rehabilitation. They were being punished, shamed and bombarded with negativity. I couldn’t fathom the value of that. The way I saw it, most inmates would be released with more pain and more anger than when they first arrived. I found Jimmy Santiago Baca’s memoir a few weeks later and, in it, discovered a living, breathing, and vibrant role model for these incarcerated men and women. Here was a story that could serve and inspire them. Once I saw this, I realized that there was something I could do – build a bridge between the two – and making the movie became a choiceless choice.
Q: Who do you expect your audience will be? Who are you trying to reach out to with this documentary?
Daniel: There are millions of at-risk youth travelling down the same path that Baca did: street-life, adolescent dysfunction, drug dealing, prison. Many of these kids are functionally illiterate or simply are not being inspired or encouraged to read, write, study and think. And there are countless adults and families today caught in a spiral of poverty, violence, and despair. Baca’s life and poetry speaks directly to these disaffected and often neglected segments of society, serving as proof that at any time in our life we can learn to look at ourselves differently and relate to our circumstances in a new way. In short, Baca embodies the hope for a positive future, not just for disenfranchised populations, but for all Americans. This film will introduce and make him accessible to many who would never encounter his story, his accomplishments, or his transformation.
Q: What is the draw for your audience? What makes your documentary unique?
Daniel: Every human being knows insecurity, fear, pain, love, darkness and light, but few recognize it with the intensity and focus of Jimmy Santiago Baca. His background is not unique - family dysfunction, homelessness, drug dealing, prison sentence – but it’s rare that a person with Jimmy’s background so ardently, bullheadedly and singularly transcends cultural expectation. He was set up to fail in life, all conditions against him, but he decided early on that his circumstances would not dictate his fate. Even in prison, a place that destroys, he found a way to nourish himself. It may be that poetry saved his life, but only because Jimmy had the courage to let it.
Q: Did you draw influences for this documentary from other films? Which ones? Are there any specific directors you draw inspiration from?
Daniel: It is difficult to pinpoint any specific documentaries that have influenced this film, but I know that every documentary that I have ever seen has influenced my style and approach. David Grubin and Errol Morris are two directors I draw inspiration from.
Q: What specific locations or people are featured in your documentary? What is their significance to the project?
Daniel: We have been shooting primarily in New Mexico, but we will film in Arizona as well. Beyond Jimmy, we have conducted extensive dozens of friends and family who witnessed his transformation: family, former cellmates, poets, guards and even the DEA agent who busted Jimmy.
If you are interested in making a donation to this documentary, you can visit its Kickstarter page here: http://kck.st/NsBX8g
Also, you can visit its official website here: http://www.aplacetostandmovie.com