Captive Beauty tells an unflinching and unforgettable story of four women – Catalina, Leidy, Diana and Marta – who are all serving time for various
crimes in Medellin’s notorious and largest female prison. They are also participants of a week long beauty pageant held at the prison complete with
catwalks and being pampered. Some of these women will never leave prison but the pageant serves to restore some dignity and let them feel like a queen
for a moment. Jared Goodman shared his journey with us.
Studying film in college left me eager to tell a story – I had just graduated, was always passionate about baseball, and after pitching the project to a
Boston based production company, I found myself in the Dominican Republic playing with children, interviewing stars, and finding out what made them tick.
All of this led to the creation of Road to the Big Leagues, a film about the fascinating journey of young Dominican players attempting to make it big. The
experience was great, empowering and I quickly began hunting for another experience, another story to tell.
You are from Boston, when and how did the idea to shoot in Medellín’s largest female prison about an inmate beauty pageant come up?
I simply came across an article about this beauty pageant in a prison and it instantly resonated with me – it had to be my next project. So many powerful
themes were present that I just couldn’t ignore and in a matter of months Spencer Kehe (producer) and I were making arrangements to go to Medellin. Spencer
was instrumental in getting us an incredible amount of access to the prison.
Was shooting a documentary under those circumstances easy?
The prison was actually a relatively easy place to film. After the first couple of weeks the prisoners as well as the prison guards got so used to us that
we were free to go pretty much anywhere and talk to anyone. I think that for the most part the majority of the prisoners liked us being there.
What creative decisions do you make beforehand?
Going into production the main goal was to keep the camera running, and capture as many vérité scenes as possible. I knew that patience would be the key;
that I had to simply let it all unfold in front of me and the building blocks of the film would present themselves. So in the beginning, we stayed in the
prison every day, all day, for over a month, filming as much as possible. It wasn’t until we were about half way done with post production, once we had our
story shaped, that we started styling the scenes with interesting cuts and experimenting with a strong score to help make the film more theatrical. Our
editor, Daniel Rezende (City of God, The Motorcycle Diaries, and recently, The Tree of Life), is master time manipulator. He added so much to this film.
How was finding funding for Captive Beauty?
Finding funding is always a challenge, but thankfully we had the support of a successful, New York based production company. Once we returned with great
footage we were able to edit a trailer that helped us secure a large grant to help us complete post-production.
I like that you didn’t sensationalize their crimes. How did you get these women – convicted murderers, kidnappers etc to open up to you on camera?
For the first two weeks I didn’t ask our protagonists why they were in prison. I just wanted to get to know them as much as possible and develop a level of
trust between us. Finally, once I did interview them, I found the result to be intensified. They were now telling their crimes to a friend and when they
admitted to what they had done (murder, kidnapping, treason) they all came to tears and showed an incredible degree of openness and vulnerability. The
strongest parts of this film are the interviews. The women are brutally honest.
These women grew up in a beautiful country under brutal circumstances. How important was it to find those moments of humanity in them?
I came to learn quite a bit about the duality of mankind from making this film. Of course these women have a bad side to them, but with spending more time
with them, I came to see more and more good in them. These moments naturally came out, and in order to tell a complete story they had to be included.
Your first film is about shooting for your dreams and this was about dreams deferred, stolen or lost; what would you say you took away from the subject
matters in both your films?
I’m drawn to the human spirit – how it is affected by struggle, how it embraces opportunity, and how it faces challenge. Yes, my first two films are at
opposite ends of the spectrum, but to me it is imperative that I treat my subjects with dignity, regardless. This all leaves me with the experience of the
human spirit, which fascinates and moves me personally, no what shape it takes.
Have you ever thought to go back and see what became of these women?
I am friends with several of them. As each one is released, they reach out to me, and we catch up. Social media has thankfully made it possible for me to
maintain a relationship with most everyone who I have worked with in my films over the years.
Any other subject matter you would like to explore through the documentary lens?
So many! Currently I am helping produce a 30 for 30 doc for ESPN with director Mario Diaz. I also have a new documentary that I hope to start shooting this
summer in NYC and finally I have a narrative film that I am hopeful to begin production on some time in 2014 as well.
For the latest on the film give them a ‘LIKE at https://www.facebook.com/CaptiveBeauty
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