Broken On All Sides is a sixty-eight minute long documentary directed and produced by Michele Pillischer, released in 2012. This documentary began as a profile on the overcrowded Philadelphia County jail, but grew to encompass a much larger audience and impact when Pillischer realized it was not a problem specific to Philadelphia, but all urban areas.
Broken On All Sides recounts the current mass incarceration of African-Americans in the USA; with only 5% of the world’s population, the USA makes up 25% of all the worlds prisoners.
This film explains Michelle Alexander’s theory of the “new Jim Crow”– how the word ‘felon’ has come to replace ‘colored’ and the masses of incarcerated black men and women receive the same treatment, if not worse ,of slaves and victims of racial inequality. These injustices become rationalized in the eye of the public by branding these people ‘criminals’ or ‘felons’, leaving them to cope the rest of their lives in the permanent place of second class citizenship.
This documentary recounts not only the current state of the American legal system, but how it grew to be the way it is today through interviews– beginning with Jim Crow, the Reagan administration, taking you into the ghetto of modern day Philadelphia. Interviews range from the opinion of experts, prisoners, Activists, and even the mayor of Philadelphia himself.
Broken On All Sides has won two awards and been nominated for more, despite their “shoestring budget”. This documentary is praised nationally, and has successfully brought the attention of the insightful to the issue– not so much the general public. My opinion, though, is that perhaps the general public is not quite ready for such a sad, harsh reality that sits within the hour length of this documentary. The concept of the ‘new Jim Crow’ is hard to wrap one’s head around simply because it is hard to admit that perhaps institutionalized racism still has a grip on America, and even harder to admit that we have all been bystanders.
Pillischer has begun a grassroots tour of America with screenings of this documentary.
The entirety of this documentary can not be viewed for free online, but there are plenty of trailers and clips available.