First-time director Omar Broadway, collaborating with codirector Douglas Tirola on the "outside," shocks audiences with a film documenting life as an inmate inside a high-security unit of Newark's Northern State Prison. Newark, New Jersey is one of the top 10 most violent cities in the United States, and in Newark, the most dangerous corner is 15th and William. That's where Omar Broadway could be found before he was incarcerated in 1999 and sent to the prison's maximum-security gang unit, where inmates are allowed out of their cells for only an hour a week and the occasional shower. Broadway secretly obtained a video camera sometime in 2004 and began to document-along with his bunkmate, Buddy Randolph-life on the inside. What follows is a film that transports viewers into their tiny cell, where each and every photograph and object carries great significance, and where the best view of the rest of the unit is through cracks in the door. Even with such a limited point of view, Broadway manages to capture incriminating images of guards abusing other inmates, and his exposé set off an unexpected chain of events. The film combines Broadway's claustrophobic camerawork with saturated, colorful shots of his former neighborhood, where his dedicated mother leads viewers through her version of the events surrounding the contraband camera. Rapid-fire editing and a bouncing soundtrack add to the effect of Broadway's devastating footage. Everyone from FBI agents and the prison warden to activists and filmmakers weigh in on the significance of Broadway's feat-an eye-opening documentary about the prison system told from the inside.
Omar Broadway was born in East Orange, New Jersey and currently lives in Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover, Maryland. Douglas Tirola made his debut as a writer and director with the critically acclaimed film A Reason to Believe. He has worked on more than 35 films, including A League of Their Own, Money Train, Insearch of Bobby Fischer, and Twelve. He was a founding partner and head of production and development of Emerging Pictures and is currently president of 4th Row Films. His screenplay, Victor in December, was optioned by Wild Bear Films, and he will direct the film later this year. He is currently producing two feature documentaries, one about poker and the other about the weather. He also created and executive produces the MTV series The X Effect.