Through the Wire | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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A shocking and powerful documentary by Nina Rosenblum--narrated by Susan Sarandon and shot by Haskell Wexler-about the recent "experimental" torture and attempted brainwashing of three women prisoners in a federal prison in Lexington, Kentucky. Each woman was arrested for political activity, given an unusually long prison sentence, and then isolated in a basement cell for almost two years, kept under 24-hour surveillance, periodically awakened several times a night, and strip searched daily. Though this horrific unit was eventually shut down by court order after the protests of human-rights groups, the ruling was overturned last fall. Many more such prison units are now under construction. The three prisoners who underwent this ordeal because of their radical political involvement (in support of civil rights, Puerto Rican nationalism, and the antiwar movement) show a great deal of lucidity and resilience about their ordeal, in spite of the severely debilitating psychological and physical effects of the torture. One regrets the use of "simulations," even though they're identified as such, to demonstrate some of the prisoners' treatment, because their use shows so little trust in the imagination of the audience. But this is still a remarkable look at part of what Bush's "kinder, gentler" nation is up to, and something you aren't likely to hear about elsewhere. A Chicago premiere. (Chicago Filmmakers, 1229 W. Belmont, Thursday, June 21, 7:00 and 9:00, 281-8788)

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