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CULTURE

From Prison to the Big Screen: New Thriller ‘Imprisoned’ Stars Ex-Felons and Hollywood Celebs

Juan Pablo Raba in 'Imprisoned' (Photo courtesy of Equitas Entertainment)
Juan Pablo Raba in 'Imprisoned' (Photo courtesy of Equitas Entertainment)

“Everyone is caught between who they are and who they could be.”

With all of life’s ups and downs, sometimes we just need a second chance. “Imprisoned,” Equitas Entertainment’s newest film, is a story about retribution, redemption and second chances. While the film stars major Hollywood actors, the company also hired more than 40 incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people who worked alongside the veteran actors.

In an interview with Citizen Truth, Equitas Entertainment’s Founder Paul Kampf discussed the film, the company and the impact it has made on people’s lives.

Equitas Entertainment’s New Film ‘Imprisoned’

Shot in Puerto Rico in 2017 just before Hurricane Maria hit, “Imprisoned” features themes of incarceration, prison reform, capital punishment, social justice, forgiveness and second chances. The film stars Juan Pablo Raba, Laurence Fishburne and Juana Acosta and features Esai Morales and Edward James Olmos.

In “Imprisoned,” Dylan Burke (Juan Pablo Raba) is happily married to his wife, Maria (Juana Acosta). Now a fisherman with a crew of former convicts like himself, Dylan attempts to move on from his past mistakes. As Maria says in the movie, “It’s his way of making up for his past.”

When Santiago Prison’s (the local jail) new warden, Daniel Calvin (Laurence Fishburne), meets Maria while visiting her coffee shop, he learns who her husband is. Having never forgiven Dylan for a crime committed years before, the warden is determined to get revenge. After several unsuccessful attempts, he eventually frames Dylan for a murder he did not commit.

Juana Acosta in ‘Imprisoned’ (Photo courtesy of Equitas Entertainment)

Faced with the most difficult trial of their lives, Dylan and Maria must choose between forgiveness or retribution.

“Everyone is caught between who they are and who they could be,” Kampf, who is also the film’s Writer and Director, told Citizen Truth.

Films That Make a Difference

Founded by Paul Kampf, Holly Levow and Tom Sperry, Equitas Entertainment’s mission is “to produce compelling and important projects that provide opportunities for the under-served in the film industry while closing the gender pay gap,” as emphasized on Equitas Entertainment’s website. They strive to prove that “stories can be entertaining, thought-provoking, socially responsible and fiscally profitable.”

Equitas Entertainment Founders Holly Levow and Paul Kampf (Photo courtesy of Equitas Entertainment)

Equitas Entertainment Founders Holly Levow and Paul Kampf (Photo courtesy of Equitas Entertainment)

Equitas is dedicated to bettering society by donating to causes that align with their mission. While filming “Imprisoned,” the company partnered with PeaceLove, a mental health organization whose mission is to “create peace of mind.” Through free expressive art classes, PeaceLove promotes wellness and peace of mind to those who are affected by mental health disorders. Equitas has donated the proceeds from several film screening events to PeaceLove, funding a Creator (a trainer in the company) in every city in which “Imprisoned” is released.

While preparing for the production of “Imprisoned,” Equitas remodeled houses and buildings used for the film. When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico just after the shooting was complete, the company donated money to hurricane relief efforts.

Formerly Incarcerated Men Receive a Second Chance

Much like the film’s major theme of second chances, many of the cast members are receiving a second chance at life. A dozen incarcerated and more than 30 formerly incarcerated men were involved with the film’s production.

During the making of the film, these men were immersed in the same prison environment that they had been in for years. And at the end of the day, the men who were currently incarcerated had to return to prison. According to Kampf, Equitas helped these men to regain their hope and dignity – some through acting and others by providing feedback and filming advice.

One particular gentleman had previously been incarcerated for about 15 years. Upon his release, he was unable to find a job. After going back to college and earning his master’s degree, he still was unable to find work. Eventually, Equitas Entertainment cast him to play one of the characters in “Imprisoned.” Since his role in the film, he has been cast in a few other movies and is now making a living in the film industry.

Further, eight of the inmates who are still serving time were granted a special pass from prison to attend the world premiere of “Imprisoned” in Puerto Rico on September 10. At the premiere, the men attested to the powerful impact that being involved with the film’s production had on their lives.

“I had a great experience working on ‘Imprisoned.’ The cast and crew made me feel like a Hollywood star,” Nathanahel Arroyo, who played the role of Lobo in the film, told Citizen Truth. “I am extremely proud of our work and the film.”

Having already premiered in Puerto Rico and New York, the film will be released in select U.S. cities on Friday, September 13.

Meanwhile, Equitas Entertainment continues to make an impact on individuals, communities and cast members, one film at a time.

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Leighanna Shirey

Leighanna graduated with a degree in English from Pensacola Christian College. After teaching high school English for five years, she decided to pursue her dream of writing and editing. When not working, she enjoys traveling with her husband, spending time with her dogs, and drinking way too much coffee.

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