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Criminal Justice
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The Grey Area: Feminism Behind Bars
A film by Noga Ashkenazi
US, 2012, 65 minutes, Color, DVD, English
Order No. W131093
THE GREY AREA is an intimate look at women’s issues in the criminal justice system and the unique experience of studying feminism behind bars. Through a series of captivating class discussions, headed by students from Grinnell College, a small group of female inmates at a maximum women’s security prison in Mitchellville, Iowa, share their diverse experiences with motherhood, drug addiction, sexual abuse, murder, and life in prison. The women, along with their teachers, explore the “grey area” that is often invisible within the prison walls and delve into issues of race, class, sexuality and gender.

The number of women in prison has grown by over 800% in the past three decades, two thirds are mothers and are incarcerated for non-violent offenses and more than 80% have been victims of domestic violence or sexual assault at some point in their lives. THE GREY AREA is an important look into the complex factors behind these statistics and how feminism sheds light and brings hope to those incarcerated. This is an excellent film to prompt discussion in women’s studies, courses that include prison reform or violence against women, American studies and sociology.


Julien Dubuque International Film Festival, Best Documentary

  • ArcLight Cinemas Documentary Film Festival
  • Sarasota Film Festival
  • Through Women's Eyes International Film Festival

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    "Recommended. Defines feminism and then illustrates how feminist issues are both personal and political, regardless of gender, and societal issues."
    Educational Media Reviews Online (EMRO)

    "A compelling example of the power of feminism to bridge barriers between women and to heal some of the damage they have endured."
    Michael Kimmel
    Distinguished Professor of Sociology, SUNY

    "What a moving, important, and powerful film! There really is a "grey" area and the stories of these women made me stop and think hard about that fine line."
    Cindy Waitt
    Executive Director, Waitt Institute

    "The film remains an essential look at the absurdity of the parole process at the state penitentiary level and the way in which a group of female prisoners find resilience in literary and gender theory despite the seeming impossibility of justice."
    Brandon Harris
    Filmmaker Magazine

    "THE GREY AREA provides an excellent framework for discussing the oft-ignored issues surrounding incarcerated women."
    Leigh Kolb
    Bitch Flicks

    "The interviews with and footage of the incarcerated women are incredibly moving... Documentaries like THE GREY AREA provide a clear, in-depth context for having conversations beyond what happened on this season of Orange is the New Black."
    Leigh Kolb
    Bitch Flicks

    "This insightful and thought-provoking documentary asks us to truly see the most invisible women in the United States - women in the criminal justice system. One cannot walk away from this film untouched or unaware of the reality of incarcerated women's lives. The Grey Area challenges us to take action and advocate for the reassessment of our current policies and programs."
    Stephanie S. Covington, Ph.D.
    Co-director, Center for Gender & Justice, La Jolla, CA

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    The Grey Area: Feminism Behind Bars is included in the following Special Collections.
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WMM offers film collections on a variety of specific subject areas, including the collections VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: Ending the Silence, BODY IMAGE, and AFRICAN-AMERICAN: Celebrate the Lives of African-American Women.

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Women Make Movies is a multicultural, multiracial, non-profit media arts organization which facilitiates the production, promotion, distribution, and exhibition of independent films and videotapes by and about women. contact us