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: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Pre-Production


Philosophy students from a prison education program battle their own epic hero saga, challenging notions of masculinity, and pursue education once outside prison walls.


Can someone currently serving time in a US prison be inspired by an ancient Babylonian epic poem written 4,000 years ago?  A prison education program inspires incarcerated participants to become university students upon their release. How do you free your mind in a place where freedom isn’t possible: prison?


My work on my previous documentary feature, FREE CeCe! has kept me focused on learning more about the PIC (Prison Industrial Complex) and how people are treated while they are incarcerated. This film topic has chose me. Because of Columbia University’s deep appreciation for this film that I made, I was hired to create videos for the Pedagogy of Dignity program within the Philosophy Department. I quickly began filming the beginning of this year and eventually became a teaching assistant inside MDC to witness the program first hand. This experience was life altering and I was happy that I was able to negotiate my filming contract with Columbia to include the rights to all the material I shot for a possible documentary. UNTILED GILGAMESH PROJECT is this film. Perhaps the most interesting surprise for me so far has been the way I witnessed men in prison to take on Theater of the Oppressed techniques to battle and defeat their own toxic masculinity. Witnessing their ability to enter into a learning culture with such earnest and dedication was perhaps the most poignant and important message I feel this film can convey, aside from the experience of witnessing freedom through education, particularly in a place designed to keep people from freedom. How does an education in prison provide hope for someone who has spent most of his life behind bars? This is an important story, because the power rests in each student's decision to engage with and pursue their own education. A main issue engaged by this work is how men who are incarcerated of formerly incarcerated begin to think critically and interrogate notions of masculinity. Gilgamesh as a character described as two-thirds god and one-third man, leads the students to relate his actions as a character to their own practical lives in profound ways. The subjects examine their own experiences as men, the choices they made when they soared high feeling immortal, or crashed feeling less than human. The film with rely on interviews with formerly incarcerated students and three instructors, professors working with the Justice in Philosophy initiative at Columbia University. Filming inside a prison of a class and the Theater of the Oppressed workshop methods used/ interactions between incarcerated students and teachers. Following a formerly incarcerated students from a halfway house and entering living situations with support systems created from learning and engaging with the text of Gilgamesh together. Animation of passages from Gilgamesh create a chapter structure for telling the storylines between students and their classrooms on the inside and outside.


Jacqueline Gares - Director
JACQUELINE (Jac) GARES is a New York-based filmmaker. FREE CeCe! (available now on iTunes) is the documentary feature film she directed and co-produced with Laverne Cox. For five years, Jac served as producer and supervising producer of IN THE LIFE on public television, her work garnered awards from NLGJA, GLAAD, and Webbys. She produced commercially and for the History Channel, Food Network, and USA Networks. Gares worked with PBS's premiere non-fiction film showcase, P.O.V./The American Documentary. She left inspired and made UNRAVELED, a documentary, about genetic testing and Alzheimer’s Disease. UNRAVELED, won a Freddie Award in 2008. Jac's short film REMNANT won a TELLY Award in 1999. Gares has a BA in English Literature from Rutgers University and an MA in Media Studies from The New School.


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