[Ppnews] In Prison My Whole Life - a film about Mumia
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Oct 26 12:21:57 EDT 2007
In Prison My Whole Life: An interview with William Francome
by William Francome and Hans Bennett; October 26, 2007
The <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaTPo8DZ_1k>trailer for the new
British documentary about US death-row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal,
titled "In Prison My Whole Life," begins with the film's central
character, William Francome, explaining that he's "been aware of
Mumia for as long as I can remember. That's because he was arrested
on the night I was born, for the murder of a Philadelphia police
officer. As my mom would often remind me, every birthday I had, has
been another year that Mumia has spent in prison.... I am going on a
journey to find out about the man who has been in prison my whole life."
The 90-minute film premieres on October 25 at both The Times BFI 51st
London Film Festival and Rome's International Film Festival. With the
acclaimed British actor Colin Firth as an executive producer, "In
Prison My Whole Life" is directed by Marc Evans and produced by Livia
Firth and Nick Goodwin Self. The film has interviews with such
figures as Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Noam Chomsky, Amy Goodman,
Ramona Africa, and musicians Mos Def, Snoop Dogg and Steve Earle.
Amnesty International, who concluded in
report that Abu-Jamal's original 1982 trial was unfair, is supporting
"In Prison" as part as part of its international campaign to abolish
the death penalty.
International UK Director Kate Allen says: "It's shocking that the US
justice system has repeatedly failed to address the appalling
violation of Mumia Abu-Jamal's fundamental fair trial rights."
In this exclusive interview on the eve of the film's premiere,
Francome discloses for the very first time, one of the movies biggest
surprises: The film will prominently feature the startling Dec. 9,
1981 <http://www.abu-jamal-news.com>crime scene photos that were
recently discovered by German author Michael Schiffmann, and are
in his new book. Never presented to the 1982 jury, these new photos
(taken by press-photographer Pedro Polakoff) "bolster claims of
Mumia's innocence and unfair trial," according to
columnist David A. Love.
Polakoff's photos have been shown on the
<http://www.abu-jamal-news.com>Journalists for Mumia website since
photos in May, the same week that The US Third Circuit Court of
Appeals heard <http://www.freemumia.com/oralarguments.html>oral
arguments regarding the fairness of Abu-Jamal's 1982 trial
courtroom audio). While waiting for this important court ruling
<http://www.freemumia.com/dayafter.html>(expected any week),
Abu-Jamal's international support network
<http://www.indymedia.org/en/2007/10/894288.shtml>has initiated a
media-activist campaign demanding that the major media outlets
acknowledge the new crime scene photos. One of Polakoff's photos will
be published for the first time in the US, in this week's issue of
<http://www.sfbayview.com>The San Francisco Bay View National Black
previously reported on Abu-Jamal's case.
Francome cannot reveal any more of the film's big surprises, but he
does say that "the film interviews people who have never told their
story of the events of that night for the first time ever and offers
new insight and theories as to what happened on Locust Street in
1981. To learn more about this, people ought to go and watch the film."
Hans Bennett: What can you tell us about the new crime scene photos
discovered by German author Michael Schiffmann, and how they appear
in your film?
William Francome: The photos of press photographer Pedro Polakoff
feature in the film as well as an interview with him and Michael
Schiffmann, the German author who found them.
We had been in contact with Michael from the beginning of this
project as he is one of the most knowledgeable people on the case. He
had been working on his book 'Race Against Death' when he found a
photo online that he realized was not taken by the police at the
scene. Somehow (Michael is an amazing investigator) he found Pedro
who was a press photographer at the time of the shootings in December
of 1981. Pedro had arrived on the scene within minutes and captured
much of the initial chaos of the scene.
They are quite amazing photographs as they show the complete lack of
professionalism by the police who were faced with the task of
preserving the crime scene and any forensic evidence that might be
inherent within it. There are pictures of a police officer holding
both of the weapons at the scene in one hand without gloves, which
would therefore completely contaminate any fingerprints or gun powder
residue. They also show the police walking in and out of the scene
and show that Officer Faulkner's hat was moved from photo to photo. I
may just be a layman in terms of crime scene maintenance but it seems
to me that these are grave and almost criminally negligent mistakes
to make. There is also the issue of bullet holes or the lack thereof
in the pavement. The photos should show where bullet fragments would
have been found in the surrounding cement according to the
prosecution witnesses' account, but this is not the case.
Whether or not these acts were made on purpose remains to be seen,
but the photos could have helped clear this case up from the very
beginning. Now we are 25 years down the line and we are still asking
basic questions of the initial evidence that should not have been
left for so long unanswered. Meanwhile, a man is on death row who
claims he's innocent and it's been a quarter of a century since a
policeman was killed and many feel the killing hasn't been sufficiently solved.
What makes the issue of the photos even more important is that they
were purposefully ignored by the prosecution and the District
Attorney's Office. Pedro says that he rang them and told them of his
photographs and offered them for use in the trial, but that the
office never got back to him. It is obvious that the prosecution knew
that the photographs of the crime scene could have done their case
some damage in court and therefore outright ignored them.
HB: Where does the movie go from here? When can people in the US view it?
WF: The film is about to premiere at the London and Rome film
festivals and I'm very happy to say that it's sold out all of its
screenings. We are still at the early stages and we have to wait and
see if and when it gets taken on by a distributor, what happens next.
I'm sure at some point in the near future we'll be screening the film
in the US. The film was shot in America and mostly deals with
American issues so I look forward to seeing the reaction it gets
there. I myself am half American, and spent my teenage years in New
York, so I have enjoyed making a film about the country I grew up in
as well as having been able to look at it as an outsider.
HB: Why is Mumia's case still so important after 25 years?
WF: I think the fact that Mumia's case is still being debated after
twenty five years is an issue in itself. It seems unbelievable to me
that you could keep someone in solitary confinement for a quarter of
a century as well as having a death sentence hanging over him that
whole time. The starting point of this film is that it's been my
whole life, and considering all the things that I have done and all
the memories I have really helps to put the whole thing in
perspective. Try thinking back to what you were doing in 1981 and it
might have the same effect. In that time, there have been hundreds of
people executed and there are still over 3,000 currently sitting on
death row in America. However, despite evidence that people innocent
of the crimes they were convicted for have been executed and over 100
people who have been exonerated and released from death row because
of new evidence, the death penalty system in America still grinds forward.
After 25 years, the questions of race, cost and inadequate legal
representation have yet to be fully and honestly addressed and the
issues that caused it to be declared unconstitutional in the 70's
persist. In short, as long as there is a death penalty in the United
States, Mumia's case and the case of all death row inmates will
remain vital and important. People should see this movie because they
too seek for answers and honesty from the criminal justice system,
and they too, want to gain a greater understanding of the inherent
flaws in the death penalty system in the U.S.
Even if people can't relate to the story of Mumia Abu-Jamal or are
not affected by it, they might still be able to relate to my story. I
think for many people, the journey that I'm going on is enough on its
own. This is the story of two lives coming together in a sense, and
hopefully it will allow many who have previously been uninterested in
the issues surrounding the case to sit up, take notice and find out
more on their own. In a ninety minute film, it is hard to
comprehensively look into any subject, but you hope that it gives the
audience enough to go away and delve further.
Hans Bennett is an independent journalist and co-founder (with German
author Michael Schiffmann) of Journalists for Mumia Abu-Jamal
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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