In An Ideal World
An intimate and stirring portrait of three men on the frontlines of crime and punishment in America, IN AN IDEAL WORLD goes deep inside a California prison to explore — and honor — the human drama at its core (and the place AVP played in their lives).
Film produced and directed by Noel Schwerin. Screened on PBS.
Shot over seven years with unlimited access, the film is an immersive story told firsthand, without outside experts or narration. A white warden at ease with authority, a separatist murderer and a black ex-gang member, all three men come from different worlds. Yet all have spent their entire adult lives in prison, sharing a culture that has, in just that time, institutionalized the American racial landscape in ways that we are only beginning to understand, and that may prove very difficult to undo. Each came into the system very young, learned the convict/cop “codes” from their groups, and over three decades gained power and influence in prison. At the same time, crime control in the U.S. came to rely almost exclusively on locking people up, increasingly and disproportionately people of color.
John, Sam and the warden learned how to navigate prison’s complex, violent and deeply entrenched, racially divided culture, but now they find themselves on the cusp of potentially radical change.
In an ideal world captures the essence of life in an American prison, where rigid control, imposed regulations and unwritten inmate rules barley stave off chaos but where dedicated coaching (AVP) transforms inmates’ anger and blind self-centeredness into insight and empathy. If you haven’t been in prison, see this film. If you have, take people who haven’t been inside to see it.