Imagine 40 years in a 6x9-feet cell

Published: 25 November, 2013 06:11 IST | Kanika Sharma |

Herman Wallace spent 40 years in a US prison as a convict for a crime he did not commit. Filmmaker Angad Bhalla speaks about the film Herman's House that will be screened by Vikalp@Prithvi

How did you come across Herman Wallace’s story?
I learned about Herman Wallace’s story through The House That Herman Built project he worked on with artist Jackie Sumell. Jackie and I are friends from university and she introduced me to Wallace. Her request for Herman to dream about a house outside the 6 by 9 feet cell he’d lived in for three decades was her way of trying to help him. She has continued to work on it for over a decade now.

Architectural Rendering of the House by artist Jackie Sumell

What was it like exploring Wallace’s life?
Herman is a fascinating character because his life is both a lesson of history and a warning for the future. We incorporated several scenes where he talks about how he first ended up in prison and after understanding the contradictions of the system joined the Black Panther party and fought to change it. The police authorities first framed him for a murder he did not commit and then threw him in solitary confinement for 40 years sending a clear message to those who might rebel. But Herman never wavered and even from within solitary kept up his critique of the system and his fight for the rights of other prisoners. His story is a lesson for the future as we see how our current system persecutes people like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden for telling the truth.

Actual Exhibit of The House That Herman Built

Tell us about Wallace’s release and subsequently, his death?
Herman was diagnosed with cancer in June, this year. On October 1st, 2013, a federal judge, after several years, overturned his 1972 murder conviction and ordered Herman’s release. He was vindicated and lived as a free man for three days until he passed on October 4. The film has not been updated but we will be releasing an interactive online film on Herman’s life in spring 2014 that will include this information.

Angad Bhalla

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