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Prison screens movies as tools for change
05.10.2014

    Inmates at the Shanghai Women’s Prison, the only one of its kind in the city, were treated to a host of movies ahead of Mother’s Day tomorrow, sparking maternal instincts among them.

    The film screenings were particularly hard on one of the prisoners, 23-year-old Wang Jia, after her own movie-making experience ended in a 10-year jail term.

    Wang set up a video studio after learning editing in college. Desperate to make her mark in the city’s Tinseltown, Wang rented professional cameras and a range of other film equipment worth more than 12 million yuan (US$1.93 million) from several companies in 2011. The project didn’t take off and she ran out of money and was forced to mortgage the equipment and borrow cash. She lost some of the equipment after being unable to pay for them.

    Her parents sold their house but she was still short of 4 million yuan, excluding rental fees and the costs of some machines. She was sentenced to jail in 2012.

    “I was too anxious to realize my dream. Now I think I was too selfish. I’m the only child of my aging parents,” said a remorseful Wang.

    Prison authorities screened five well-known classics — Ballet Of Two Dancers (Chinese), Forrest Gump (American), Firelight (French), Harmony (South Korean) and The Most Beautiful Goodbye (South Korean) — that they hoped would motivate the inmates to change.

    Another inmate, Cheng Tingting, 29, who is serving time for embezzlement, was also moved by the screenings and bemoaned the fact that she could not buy clothes and jewelry for her mother on Mother’s Day.

    Letter of gratitude

    But she did write a letter expressing her gratitude to her mother.

    “Buying gifts for my mother is not a creative idea, but I will not be able to do even such ordinary things for a long time,” Cheng said.

    Cheng was an administrative officer in a media company and submitted false expenses claims of more than 1 million yuan, which ended in a seven-year sentence for her.

    “Some of the inmates have mothers and many of the offenders are mothers. We hope to rehabilitate them by arousing their instincts about their mothers and children,” a prison official said yesterday.

    “In some of the movies, the characters lost their mothers in the end. But our mothers are still alive. We should do well here and go back to them as soon as possible. That is the only impetus for me,” said one of the inmates.

    “In the South Korean film Harmony, a mother gives birth to a baby in the prison and gradually changes for good. The baby gave her hope and was the momentum for a change. I have my hope and momentum too,” an inmate Zhang Qian said.

    “My 9-year-old daughter is struggling with English language. My parents always tell her that if I were home, I would have helped her with her homework. I’m really sorry for not being there when she needs me,” said Zhang.

    “She will be about 14 years old when I am released. I hope I am around to help her deal with adolescence.”

    The Shanghai Women’s Prison houses more than 1,000 inmates who are serving jail terms for crimes ranging from drug offenses, theft, assault, embezzlement, fraud and murder.