Jordane Delahaye, Gleaner Writer
Since its release earlier this year, Nicetime Productions Limited's Songs of Redemption has already picked up a Best Feature Film award from the Pan African Film Festival and has been garnering critical acclaim.
A special screening of the documentary at the Mona Visitors' Lodge last Thursday revealed why.
Many a time prisoners in film are illustrated as fiendish monsters and nightmarish tales of what goes on within the walls of a jailhouse are concocted, mostly as a means to scare youth on to the right path.
What producer Fernando Garcia Guereta and his team at Nicetime Productions have done with Songs of Redemption is offer viewers a healthy dose of perspective.
Guereta was able to illustrate hope and the fragility of the human condition among those desperately seeking retribution from within prison walls, while simultaneously portraying the harsh reality of life behind bars.
Add to this the fact that reggae music is highlighted as the main emotive outlet and source of hope for many of the inmates and you find yourself torn between rooting for their release and condemning them for their transgressions.
As Superintendent Leroy Fairweather says in the documentary, "The prisoners come to prison as punishment not for punishment."
This is probably one of the reasons the non-governmental organisation Stand Up for Jamaica's training programme, the Department of Correctional Services and the European Union's Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights partnered to aid a rehabilitation programme in the general penitentiary.
This rehabilitation programme and the hope and transformation it brings to some of the inmates is what Songs of Redemption focuses on.
At the screening, there were a few opening performances by some emerging reggae artistes along with one of Jamaica's stalwart musicians, Bongo Herman.
After the film was shown, Kemar, a recently released product of the rehabilitation programme, was introduced to the audience. It was revealed that Kemar would be a part of Digicel Stars this year and his brief performance at the screening revealed a young man with great potential.