This singular documentary—shot over two years after six years of negotiating for unprecedented permission to shoot inside a Japanese prison—follows the emotional and psychological journey of four young male inmates at Shimane Asahi Rehabilitation Center as they participate in Therapeutic Community, an unconventional group conversation-based rehabilitation program that encourages participants to talk through their experiences in order to better understand themselves and the consequences of their crimes. Initially skeptical, the inmates gradually open up and provide heartbreaking testimonies of childhoods filled with poverty, violence, and abandonment, which are visualized onscreen with sand animations. A continuation of director Kaori Sakagami’s career-long interest in trauma and the process of recovery, Prison Circle provides compelling evidence for the dire need of empathy in the process of rehabilitation and a vision for the potential future of decarceration.
Available streaming territory: U.S. only
in Japanese with English subtitles