Within the Walls: A Story of Healing


Martin de Valk


Chiaro Productions Martin de Valk


First Nations Health Indigenous Social Sciences
  • Release Date 1997
  • Running Time 25 minutes
  • Closed Captions No
  • Availability Canada, USA

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Within the Walls: A Story of Healing

If I reached out for help as often as I reached out for a bottle of beer, I wouldn't be sitting here.     - Inmate participant

The Aboriginal Peoples of Canada have experienced oppression, racism and abuse for hundreds of years. The wide-ranging and pervasive social problems they have faced as a result has meant that a disproportionate number of First Nations people end up being caught in the cycle of incarceration and the prison system. Instead of being treated as criminals deserving only of punishment, Aboriginal inmates have begun taking part in a program meant to heal. Called The Red Road, the program is aided by traditional indigenous practices of self-discovery and nurturing such as talking circles, carving, drumming, sweats and pow-wows. The aim is to re-establish these inmates with the good road ... the road to healing.

Within the Walls is a unique documentary which follows the journey of participants who are inmates of William Head Institution, a federal prison on the rugged coast of Vancouver Island. Using beautifully executed voice-overs and black and white photography, Martin de Valk records the inmates' moments as they experience their perilous inner journeys. Recorded over a period of fifteen months, the viewer is exposed to the process and the issues that are raised along the way. Through traditional native activities, the Brotherhood works through raw issues of sexual abuse, familial abuse, substance abuse, addressing past wrongs, learning to share and communicate again, justice and respect for prisoners, re-claiming oneself, and re-claiming one's culture. The goal is not simply rehabilitation, but healing and self-respect.  Two years later, On the Red Road: A Walk on the Outside is a follow up documentary about the transition of Aboriginal inmates from a federal prison to the outside. 

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