Name an emotion and I think you’ll find it in this film, sometimes when you least expect it. For some emotions, you’ll have to be fast to catch them. For other emotions, it’s the very glue that holds everything together, it’s the paint that covers it, It’s the material it’s made of. There’s no escape.
I don’t have to tell you what this film is about since the title says it all, succinctly. It’s also a story of the quest of one woman, a Canadian blueswoman, Rita Chiarelli, that began ten years ago and is culminating with this film.
The opening scenes set the mood for the film, to some extent. A lonesome Louisiana bayou, fog-covered, the lament of a foghorn in the background. A railroad crossing, one of those old, 1950s-era-type warning signs guarding it. No lowered gates, no flashing lights. People were smarter then, I guess. They didn’t need several thousand dollars' worth of signs and warnings and gates to warn of something that anybody with the sense that God gave a pissant has the common sense to avoid. One wooden post, two metal strips in an "X" shape saying "Railroad Crossing." The crossing itself isn’t paved or improved, except for somebody depositing a few railroad ties between the tracks to soften the ride when crossing them.
If there were street signs here, this would be the corner of Plum and Damn … Plumb outta town and Damn near outta civilization.
Swamps. Abandoned, derelict buildings. A horse munching some grass. Bare trees. All these stark scenes add to the impression. A cemetery with all the crypts aboveground. A broad expanse of water with a dozen trees growing in its midst.
The imagery is breathtaking in its majesty, its beauty, and its overpowering desolation.
A boat traversing a bayou, one man at the tiller. Chris Morrison, riverboat guide, is telling us an abbreviated history of the thousands of acres that comprise Angola, the Louisiana State Prison, and its tales of abuse, murder, rape, and general corruption, all at the expense of the mostly (85%) black prisoners kept there. Morrison talks of the desolate and terrible conditions today, then asks us to imagine what the place was like before air conditioning, before decent meals, before it was safe to so much as walk to the latrine.