“I’ve had dreams of getting out of prison—and I was dancing my way out.” – Herman Wallace
Herman Wallace is speaking from Louisiana’s Angola jail, where he’s been kept in solitary confinement for over 40 years. The phone line may be static, but the voice is unbroken.
The Deeper They Bury Me: A Call from Herman Wallace is an interactive encounter with one of America’s most famous political prisoners—and an indictment of a criminal justice system that confined him to a cement tomb for most of his adult life.
Within a window of 20 precious minutes, the time allotted for a prison call, users are invited to imagine Wallace’s universe, navigating between his six-by-nine-foot cell and the dream home he envisions with artist Jackie Sumell.
Deftly overlaying Wallace’s voice with sparsely poetic animation, Angad Singh Bhalla and Ted Biggs craft an utterly original perspective on North America’s prison industrial complex, evoking Wallace’s segregated childhood and his courageous efforts to build community within prison.
The US has the world’s highest incarceration rate, holding over 2.3 million citizens behind bars. Over 80,000 are kept in extended solitary confinement, a practice denounced as cruel and unusual punishment by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.
Wallace and fellow inmate Albert Woodfox were placed in solitary confinement in 1972, charged and later convicted of killing a prison guard. A third man, Robert King, was also placed in solitary although never charged. Together they became known as the Angola Three, forming a prison-based chapter of the Black Panther Party and advocating for other inmates in the “bloodiest jail in the south.” In the absence of any physical evidence linking Wallace or Woodfox to the murder, independent legal observers have accused the prison administration of framing the men. Court appeals continue.
The Deeper They Bury Me offsets this dark history with surprising tenderness and lyricism, returning throughout to a simple voice on the phone. Speaking down the line, across decades of deprivation and injustice, it resounds with defiance, humour and wisdom.
The Deeper They Bury Me: A Call from Herman Wallace was written and directed by Angad Singh Bhalla and Ted Biggs. Animation was created by Nicolas Brault. Produced by Anita Lee for the National Film Board of Canada, in association with Storyline Entertainment Inc.