Thirty-seven years, one month, and 37 days have passed since the Angola Three were sentenced to solitary confinement for crimes that evidence can’t support. Vadim Jean’s In the Land of the Free… follows these men and the claims that have been made against them as well as the trials that seem mysteriously devoid of any substantial proof. Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox remain behind bars while Robert King, the third of the three, fights for their freedom from the outside.
In the Land of the Free… follows the lives of Wallace, Woodfox, and King from before their incarceration to the present with interviews, personal accounts, and narration done by Samuel L. Jackson. While each of the three’s misdeeds arguably warranted their original sentencing, it was alleged crimes while in prison that triggered more punishment, and put them in solitary confinement for more than 35 years. But those sentences, say the Angola Three- and the film drives this point home like a hammer- were delivered because of the trio’s active involvement as Black Panthers and their open, outspoken desire to be treated as humans while detained.
Vadim Jean’s documentary provides an insightful background into prison politics and the issue of racism in the judicial system. It focuses on the extreme cruelty that has been forced on the three while also very questioning the validity of their sentencing. “In some ways,” said Jean, “they had no chance.” And as the film progresses, this inequity is undeniable, outrageous and, at times, enough to make you shout out loud angry. The latter is a response that stands in stark contrast to the positivity and strength of person demonstrated by the trio throughout the film.