Natural Life | Chicago Reader

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85 minutes · 2013

Video artist Tirtza Even takes a documentary approach to sociopolitical issues and uses interactive installations to communicate her ideas; her latest work, designed as a dual projection for museum exhibition, employs split-screen imagery to look at the crimes of six adult prisoners, each sentenced as youths to life without parole, or "natural life." The paradox that someone might lead a natural life behind bars is central to the film; the director couples interviews with archival footage and staged scenarios to create a sense of confusion and injustice; she never pardons her subjects' actions, but she convincingly condemns the more archaic aspects of our penal and judiciary systems as they process lower-class minority teens. Unlike other recent documentaries on prison issues, this has a riveting performance element that transcends stodgy journalism.

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