Back to IndieWire

‘It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It’: Prisoners Direct Their Own Stories in HBO’s Groundbreaking Doc — Watch

Directed by Madeleine Sackler and 13 incarcerated men, HBO's powerful documentary uses animation to bring their memories to life. [Exclusive]

It's a Hard Truth Ain't It HBO documentary

“It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It”


“It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It” is the first widely released documentary to be directed by men still incarcerated in a maximum security prison, but its innovative storytelling doesn’t stop there. As the prisoners interview each other and come to terms with how they received decades-long sentences, their memories are depicted in animated sequences by Yoni Goodman, of “Waltz With Bashir” fame.

In the exclusive behind-the-scenes video below, co-director Madeleine Sackler, the film’s producers, and the incarcerated men themselves take you through the documentary’s premise and purpose.

“The men try to unpack how they all ended up in prison with violent sentences, and they use the experience of learning how to make a film to try to figure those things out,” Sackler says.

Alternating roles in front of and behind the camera, the men of Indiana’s Pendleton Correctional Facility study documentary filmmaking as they create their own autobiographical documentary. Even the professional filmmakers are wowed by the intimacy and depth of each prisoner’s story, especially when they’re speaking to a fellow prisoner.

“You’re watching them learn how to make a film at the same time that they’re making a film, so the filmmaking becomes a narrative thread throughout it,” producer Stacey Reiss says.

“It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It” was shot during the same production period as the fictional HBO film “O.G.,” starring Jeffrey Wright and directed entirely by Madeleine Sackler. Also filmed at Pendleton, several of the incarcerated co-directors of “It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It” were cast as first-time actors in “O.G.” Both films circle around rehabilitation and addressing one’s past to begin their future.

“I hope people understand that we aren’t as bad as the worst thing we’ve ever done,” Reiss says in the video. “People deserve to tell their own stories.”

“It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It” premieres Saturday, February 23 at 11:45 p.m. ET on HBO Now and HBO Go, following the debut of “O.G.” The documentary will air Monday, February 25 at 10 p.m. ET on the main HBO channel. Watch the behind-the-scenes footage below.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Television and tagged , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox