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      Music From the Big House

      2010 1 hr. 26 min. Documentary List
      50% 12 Reviews Tomatometer 79% 50+ Ratings Audience Score Singer Rita Chiarelli performs for inmates at a Louisiana prison. Read More Read Less

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      Music From the Big House

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      Audience Reviews

      View All (6) audience reviews
      Audience Member âMusic From the Big Houseâ? was beautifully created to tell an impacting story in the form of documentary. Unlike some documentaries that simply tell cold-hard facts about an issue through a boring narrative, MFTBH captures the mind and heart simultaneously. It follows renowned Blues artist, Rita Chiarelli in a journey through the Angola State Prison in Louisiana, were she attempts to heal and reform inmates through experimentation with Blues music. Chiarelli deserves recognition for this spectacular film. In our society, we tend to forget that prisoners are human too and despite their mistakes they have thoughts running through their minds and emotions coursing through their veins. She gives them a chance to prove themselves and make something of their lives, where most of us would not even dare. Throughout the documentary one develops a connections with several of the Angola Prison inmates interviewed. This film succeeds in helping the audience view prisoners for more than just their crimes. An unconventional feat, it is an inspiring story that attempts to progress societal views and reform the prison system. Everyone should watch. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/12/23 Full Review Audience Member Music from the Big House was a unique look into how prisoners deal with extremely long sentences. Rita Chiarelli had once visited Angola prison due to its rich musical history and was astonished to find how much musical talent still existed there. She returned a few years later to put on concert with a few bands within the prison, this concert is the main focus of the film. The editing of the film does something good though, instead of making it just an hour and a half long concert video, the music numbers are separated by interviews with the inmates as they explain how they personally became interested in music growing up. They then go on to explain how music is used to keep their sanity while stuck in Angola prison. For many of the inmates we meet music has been their saving grace, keeping them inspired and hopeful. What the film does well is keep the inmates seeming like ordinary people, it makes you care about them and hear and feel their plights. You end up feeling like these are defiantly changed men by the end of the film, then there is the reveal where you see all the inmatesâ(TM) crimes. Overall the film is extremely enjoyable, the music is fabulous and the artistic talent coming from those individuals in Angola prison is irrefutable. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/09/23 Full Review Audience Member I've never seen anything like Music From the Big House. Knowing the premise, I knew it would be an emotional ride and probably pretty powerful stuff, but that can be said for a plethora of movies and I underestimated the way the film would genuinely move me. It's hard to describe certain emotions I felt during the movie, but its raw power was sublime. The whole movie being in black and white established a very unique, very tangible, and distinctly southern atmosphere. The film had this quiet authority that just captivated me. Seeing the different prisoners perform in their respective bands they had formed was awesome and these men knew their instruments. I liked how organic the movie was, it just trudged on at its own pace and there were no fancy frills to distract it from its path. A couple close ups of some of these inmates just playing their instruments were some of my favorite scenes. One man plays his harmonica with such quiet confidence that you can't help but feel his passion. During that and similar scenes I couldn't help but try and figure out what these inmates were thinking, what could possibly be going on in their minds. I can't imagine knowing that the rest of my life will be spent in one place and I'll die in that place and there's nothing I could do about it. The inmates have nothing to lose and everything to give and you can tell that the music is really a guiding light for some of these men, probably for some the only thing that is keeping them sane or giving them some semblance of a purpose. The concept of forgiveness is central to the movie and who is worthy of forgiveness, and it's easy to sit back and say these men should be forgiven. It's hard not to feel that way; they seem gentle, peaceful, and genuinely changed. But it's impossible to make that decision without being one of these men's victims, or a part of their victims' families. It creates a constant tension that truly invests you in the film, and it's impossible to leave the movie without an impression. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/16/23 Full Review Audience Member In the film âMusic from the Big Houseâ? you see the lives of several Angola prisoners and get to experience the drastic change of how they have modified themselves from the horrific lives most of them carried in Louisiana of drugs and violence, to pure hope and forgiveness. You can see this specially through the music they create within the jail, and their dedication and joy while taking part in this amazing concert with the help of Canadian singer and song writer Rita Chiarelli. This is the type of movie anyone will like. If you enjoy music and enjoy empowering films, this film is a must! Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/12/23 Full Review Audience Member I sat down to watch Music from the Big House knowing little more than it was about the blues, I left knowing it was about far more. Bruce McDonald beautifully directs this film in a way that shows every bit of the personâ(TM)s story. The film begins with blues musician Rita Chiarelli and why she began her journey to Angola, or Louisiana State Penitentiary. Music from the Big House ultimately is a collection of stories, of menâ(TM)s flaws, hopes, and the discovery of forgiveness. As Rita begins assembling her bands of musicians to perform before their families and fellow inmates we are also introduced to them, their stories are laid out before us. I could not help but feel for these men, and when the music begins to play I could not help but feel it myself. Their voices and music reflect every ounce of their struggles. In the end, Music from the Big House is a movie about blues and the men from which it comes, it is a film of hope and dreams, when men at their lowest lows have no where else to look but up. Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 01/14/23 Full Review Audience Member What a heart touching story about prison life in Angola Louisiana. Very thought prevoking. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/05/23 Full Review Read all reviews Post a rating

      Critics Reviews

      View All (12) Critics Reviews
      Robert Abele Los Angeles Times Even with a gripping subject like blues-singing convicts, the documentary "Music from the Big House" has a disconcerting emotional distance. Rated: 2.5/5 Jun 15, 2012 Full Review Frank Scheck Hollywood Reporter Don't look for Elvis in this stark musical doc set in a maximum security prison. Jun 5, 2012 Full Review Nicolas Rapold New York Times [It] gets across a general notion of music as universal solace. But the filmmakers hesitate at going deeper into the dark places of the prisoners' biographies and the storied prison itself. Rated: 3/5 Jun 3, 2012 Full Review Isabel Stevens ViewLondon When the camera does stray beyond the stage, the cramped, grim conditions are laid bare, the film's lyrical black and white cinematography arrestingly capturing the bleak prison landscape. Rated: 3/5 Aug 27, 2018 Full Review Kathy Fennessy The Stranger (Seattle, WA) I've rarely seen a prison film with so little anger, bitterness, and resentment on display. Aug 22, 2017 Full Review Brian Orndorf The philosophical and therapeutic value of Chiarelli's mission remains intact, but the moment Music from the Big House reveals its manipulation, it immediately deflates. Rated: C+ Sep 27, 2014 Full Review Read all reviews

      Movie Info

      Synopsis Singer Rita Chiarelli performs for inmates at a Louisiana prison.
      Bruce McDonald
      Tony Burgess, Erin Faith Young
      Original Language
      Release Date (Streaming)
      May 22, 2017
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