Stranger Inside

Stranger Inside

Director: Cheryl Dunye

Cast: Cheryl Dunye, Yolonda Ross, Davenia McFadden, Mary Mara

     
 

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In this gritty drama, a woman discovers that her long-lost mother is now her partner in a cutthroat prison gang. Treasure (Yolonda Ross) is a young African-American woman who grew up without a mother and has been in trouble with the law most of her life after falling in with a rough-and-tumble street gang. Treasure has long been told that her mother, a hard-as-nails

Overview

In this gritty drama, a woman discovers that her long-lost mother is now her partner in a cutthroat prison gang. Treasure (Yolonda Ross) is a young African-American woman who grew up without a mother and has been in trouble with the law most of her life after falling in with a rough-and-tumble street gang. Treasure has long been told that her mother, a hard-as-nails female criminal nicknamed "Brownie," died years ago, but one of Treasure's best friends and gang-sisters tells her about meeting a hard-core "lifer" named Brownie in an adult lockup, and Treasure wonders if she might be her mother. About to turn 21, Treasure goes out of her way to break enough rules to be sent to the State Facility for Women, where Brownie (Davenia McFadden) is also held. Treasure soon meets Brownie and discovers she is indeed her mother, but finds that the longtime prisoner would prefer to regard her as a gang ally than as a daughter. Treasure also learns that not everyone welcomes her presence in Brownie's gang, especially Kit (Rain Phoenix), a drug dealer who runs with Brownie and feels that her daughter is forcing her to divide her loyalties. Stranger Inside was directed and co-written by Cheryl Dunye, who previously made the controversial independent feminist satire The Watermelon Woman; the film was premiered at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival prior to its telecast on the premium cable network HBO, which financed the project.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Todd Kristel
Stranger Inside illustrates how difficult it is to apply conventional notions of justice, punishment, and rehabilitation to women who've spent so much of their lives in prison, or in similar conditions outside the prison walls, that they feel no connection to mainstream society. In order to make her film reasonably realistic, Dunye researched prison culture and spoke with inmates, social workers, and others to develop her script, then held workshops with inmates and staff at the Shakopee Correction Facility for Women. She also cast former prisoners in some roles and conducted improvisational sessions with them to develop the film's group therapy scenes in which the women discuss how they got into prison. This research helped her craft scenes that explore prison-related issues intelligently and with great emotional immediacy, but without seeming overly sentimental or pedantic. The issues that she explores in the film include the forced breakup of African-American families, the surrogate families that form in prisons as inmates try to create some semblance of domestic life, and the many ways that prison is a microcosm of life on the outside. Dunye doesn't overload the film with too many issues that would distract from the emotional core of the story; hence the movie doesn't address inadequate physical and mental health care, for example, or some of the standard issues addressed in more exploitative women-in-prison films (e.g., sexual assault). Stranger Inside is about the pursuit of basic human needs: Treasure Lee's quest to find someone to love her, her desire to be a part of some kind of family, her attempts to establish a sense of identity, and her struggle to simply survive. Yoland Ross plays Treasure with just the right mixture of toughness, bluster, and vulnerability, while Davena McFadden complements her performance effectively as the hardened Brownie who never gives too much of herself away. The relationship between these two women is interesting, illuminating, and not without its share of plot twists, although the movie does get too melodramatic on occasion. Also, it is sometimes hard to get a handle on Treasure's feelings because the film withholds a lot of information about her. But the movie is still very compelling; the fine performances and Dunye's relatively nonjudgmental approach make it easy to empathize with the characters even if you come from a completely different background.

Product Details

Release Date:
04/16/2013
UPC:
0883316770023
Original Release:
2001
Rating:
NR
Source:
Hbo Archives
Time:
1:37:00
Sales rank:
5,633

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