Up the Ridge (Film)

Up the Ridge

  •  Nick Szuberla, Amelia Kirby
  •  2006
  • Color IconColor
  •  53:16
  •  Betacam SP video
Film Description
Appalshop's radio station WMMT 88.7 FM has operated the only hip-hop radio program in Whitesburg, Kentucky since the 1990s. In 1999, volunteer DJs Nick Szuberla and Amelia Kirby received hundreds of letters from inmates transferred into nearby Wallens Ridge, the region’s newest prison built to prop up the shrinking coal economy. The letters described human rights violations and racial tension between staff and inmates. The two began filming that year and, though the lens of Wallens Ridge State Prison, captured an in-depth look at the United States prison industry and the social impact of moving hundreds of thousands of people of color from cities to distant rural outposts. Up the Ridge explores competing political agendas that align government policy with human rights violations, and political expediencies that bring communities into racial and cultural conflict with tragic consequences. The film will be of interest to anyone interested in criminal justice reform, as well as to listeners of WMMT's ongoing Monday night show "Calls from Home."

Screenings & Festivals
  • Athens International Film Festival
  • Athens International Film Festival
  • San Francisco Frozen Film Festival
  • Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

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“The use of American correction executives with abuse accusations in their past to oversee American-run prisons in Iraq is prompting concerns in Congress. Mr. Armstrong, assistant director of operations in American prisons in Iraq, resigned last year after Connecticut settled lawsuits with the families of two Connecticut inmates who died after being sent to Wallens Ridge, a super-maximum security prison in Virginia.” — The New York Times
“When I visited Wallens Ridge in the spring of 1999, it was new and as yet unoccupied. It felt like a house on moving day, all echoes and loneliness. What I found there was the perfectly evolved American prison. It was both lavishly expensive and needlessly remote, built not because it was needed but because it was wanted by politicians who thought it would bring them votes.” — Joseph T. Hallinan, author