Too much of television has for a long time been committed to the deadening notion of ”balance,” of always presenting two sides of every issue, reducing everything to mush so that it won’t offend a single viewer. In this context, a documentary anthology like P.O.V. can seem startling, even revolutionary. Here are filmmakers actually expressing their opinions, and no one’s getting equal time to contradict them!
P.O.V. — the title is short for ”point of view” — leads off a strong third season with Through the Wire, director Nina Rosenblum’s extraordinary documentary about three women consigned to a high-security underground unit within the state prison in Lexington, Ky.
The women were convicted of nonviolent political crimes but were deemed ”violent and dangerous offenders.” They were placed in an area that was constantly lighted, were watched 24 hours a day by video cameras, and were strip-searched almost daily for nearly two years.
We hear the testimony of the women themselves, who feel their sentences had less to do with their crimes than with their left-wing political affiliations.
That notion is supported by the women’s attorneys, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Amnesty International, which has described the women as ”political prisoners” being subjected to ”physical and psychological torture.”
Prison officials are given their say as well, but there’s never any doubt whom filmmaker Rosenblum supports. Through the Wire is her well-crafted expose of a prison few people in America know about, and a vivid argument for shutting it down.
Upcoming P.O.V.s include Metamorphosss: Man Into Woman (July 3), about a sex-change operation, and Letter to the Next Generation (July 17), a hilariously appalling look at some members of the present generation of Kent State University students and how they differ from the school’s antiwar demonstrators who were fired upon by the National Guard in 1970.
How do they differ? I’ll give you a hint: One present-day Kent Stater says, ”I wish they’d shot more of ‘em. After all, the National Guard told the protesters to disperse, and they didn’t, so what’d they expect?”