After 40 Years of Solitary Confinement What Would You Dream of?

Known as The Angola Three, Robert Hillary King , Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace were found guilty of armed robbery and latterly put in solitary confinement for decades in Angola Prison after being linked to the death of a prison guard.

Many have questioned if the facts surrounding both cases and Robert Hillary King was released after serving 29 year solitary confinement after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder.

Despite Woodfox and Wallace having served a jail term that has lasted over 40 years, the pair are still held in solitary confinement in a 6 x 4 cell.

Amnesty International have pleaded to the Louisiana authorities to stop the cruel and inhumane treatment of Woodfox and Wallace and has been at the forefront of civil cases against the state.

The story of Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace is the subject of many documentaries including Vadim Jean#s Land of the Free (narrated by Samuel L Jackson) and 3 Black Panthers and The Last Slave Platoon.

In 2006 Eurythmics made a music video which features a protest of their incarceration including Saul Williams, Nadirah X, Asdru Sierra, Dana Glover, Tina Schlieske, Derrick Ashong and Dave Stewart.

Herman’s House is the latest documentary to cover their story by focusing on the art project The House That Herman Built. The project came about when the artist Jackie Sumell wrote to Herman Wallace asked him the question

What kind of house does a man who has lived in a six-foot-by-nine-foot cell for over 30 years dream of?

This led to further works including a wooden cell in the Alternator Gallery and sketches showcased in the International Design Biennial in Saint-Etienne.

After watching the trailer for Herman’s House I felt compelled to learn more about The Angola Three and about their terrible conditions. If that it the sole aim of the documentary and of the trailer then it is more than successful in achieving the filmmaker’s goal.

The reality is that the trailer for Herman’s House targets potential viewers to go and see the documentary and any awareness or interest in the topic generated is a side issue. This may be a cynical opinion, however it is a trailer advertising a documentary that the filmmaker’s want you to go and see. This results in not only making money, but the opportunity for them to make more films.

As I’m writing this, I keep asking myself:

Do I want to see Herman’s House?

I think the subject is fascinating and I would gladly view the works in the Alternator Gallery and the International Design Biennial. After doing a little research into the topic, I’m also keen to see Land of the Free and 3 Black Panthers and The Last Slave Platoon.

The issue with Herman’s House is that it covers the process of creating important works that raise awareness about Herman Wallace’s incarceration. This makes Herman’s House a side topic, almost a DVD extra for The House That Herman Built which I suspect is not intended.

Chris McCarron

I'm an angry Scotsman, fanatical about Doctor Who with a savage hunger for comic-books and an unrivalled passion for video games. Owner of GoGoChimp