Choice Mexican premiere to held at Apodaca Prison
19 October 2016
Apodaca Prison in Nueva León, Mexico, made worldwide headlines four years ago, as a riot apparently orchestrated by one of the country's infamous drug cartels left 44 people dead, and provided cover for the escape of another 30.
In the years since, Apodaca has been free of serious violence. Of the many changes made in the prison's administration, one was the introduction of a form of meditation known as Ishayas' Ascension. More than a quarter of inmates and staff meditate regularly, and the impact is evident to anyone who visits the prison.
'Peace and stillness is palpable,' says Greg Hopkinson, one of the film's producers. 'This shows that true freedom is within reach of anyone.'
The inmates and staff of Apodaca feature heavily in Choice, alongside many other stories of people finding true peace against significant odds.
In the film, inmates speak of their journey from violence and fear to peace.
'When I got here [into prison] I thought my life was over,' one shares. 'But when I started with the [meditation] programme I noticed my life was changing. I could see my life hadn't ended, quite the opposite. It is here that I start living.'
Others spoke of feeling free in spite of the walls around them.
The impact was so tangible that guards began to learn, and so did prisoners' families. 'It improves everything,' says the wife of one prisoner. 'Your life and the way you relate with others, your relationships, your job, everything! It is like a pebble that falls in the water and creates ripples.'
When Greg and his fellow producer Sally Lewis were invited back to Apodaca to show the film, they didn't hesitate, seeing it as an opportunity to give back to the prisoners, families, and staff who shared their stories for Choice.
Sally and Greg speak of the 'profound peace and stillness' they experienced during their first visit to Apodaca, and of the generosity and courage shown by those who spoke openly to the film-makers, and declined the opportunity to conceal their identities.
'They all wanted to stand tall,' says Greg, 'which in that environment is a very courageous thing to do...
'People might think that prisoners have nothing better to do. But they are actually making a choice, a really significant choice, and they are making that choice in every moment. Lots of them are doing it: the guards and management and prisoners and families. Everyone's involved. And they were being really courageous in sharing their experiences.'
'It showed that peace is possible for a community of people,' Sally says, 'whether that's in prison or elsewhere. The prisoners were making a choice for themselves, but they were also making it for their families, their children, future generations.'
The Mexican premiere of Choice will be held at Apodaca on October 19, with a second screening at the prison on October 20. The audience for two screenings will be approximately 1000, comprising prison inmates, guards, officials, media and local dignitaries.
Choice will then be in cinemas on general release at Cinépolis cinemas in Mexico, and at selected cinemas in other countries. See details here.