A deeply American story about the legacy of mass incarceration. Kristal Bush, who has watched nearly every man in her life disappear into prison, channels her struggle into reuniting other Philadelphia families divided by the correctional system.

US | 2022 | 87 minutes | Color | DVD | English |


By some counts, one in four American women have a loved one who has been incarcerated. For Black women like Kristal Bush, raised in the era of mass incarceration, that number is closer to one in two. This brave film tells a story about family, love, and how women on the outside care for themselves while caring for others.

A tenacious millennial with flair thicker than her Philly accent, Kristal Bush, 27, is a social worker, homeowner, and founder of Bridging the Gap, a van service that drives families--mostly women--to visit loved ones in faraway prisons. Kristal lives that life, too. Her father has been incarcerated for 25 years; her brother, Jarvae, for 11. Her eldest brother, Jabo, cycles in and out of jail, as do cousins and friends.

Following a loose three-act structure, this vérité film explores how the criminal justice system shapes nearly every slice of Kristal’s life, though she’s never spent a day behind bars. Beginning when Kristal’s father and brother are still incarcerated, the film captures the joy, frustration, and complexity that their release brings. Kristal anchors the narrative. Her mother, “Big” Crystal, and nephew, Nyvae, add dimension to her story. Interwoven are interviews and Kristal’s own cell phone videos, bringing texture and complexity to her millennial perspective. Kristal’s quest to adopt her nephew and give him a more stable life is a key story arc, culminating in a powerful resolution in the third act.

Filmed over four years, A WOMAN ON THE OUTSIDE is a deeply American story about the legacy of mass incarceration.


An intimate portrait of people that don’t just focus on an unjust prison system but what happens to those who are on the outside. Kristal’s voice is always at the center of the narrative, which gives the intimate moments of her life an honestness and earnestness. It really makes viewers root for her and her cause

Valerie Complex Deadline

A Powerful Doc About Disrupting the System.

John Fink The Filmstage

Of all the films of the recent 2022 SXSW Festival, one documentary stood out as a profile of empathy.

David Lynch

The best documentary at the American Black Film Festival.

Angelique Jackson Variety

[A] moving, eye-opening doc.

Hollywood Chicago Patrick McDonald

"The part they don't want to discuss when it comes to incarceration."

Kathia Woods CINESPEAK

"Highly Recommended."

Video Librarian


  • Best Documentary, 2022 American Black Film Festival
  • Best North American Feature Documentary, 2022 Mammoth Lakes Film Festival
  • Best Documentary, Diamond State Black Film Festival
  • Honorable Mention for Humanitarian Excellence, 2022 Woods Hole Film Festival
  • Local Audience Award, Philadelphia Film Festival
  • World Premiere. SXSW Film Festival
  • Atlanta Film Festival
  • Bentonville Film Festival
  • Urbanworld Filim Festival
  • Justice on Trial Film Festival


Lisa Riordan Seville

Lisa Riordan Seville is an award-winning reporter and producer for outlets including NBC News, Lifetime/A+E, The Guardian U.S., BuzzFeed News and The Nation magazine, among others. The Open Society Foundations, the Investigative Fund and the Magnum Foundation have supported her work. She contributed to NBC’s Peabody-award winning "In Plain Sight: Poverty in America" (2013) and the network’s Hillman Award-winning coverage of the family separation crisis (2018).

Zara Katz

Zara Katz is an independent photo producer and filmmaker for editorials, documentary and branded content, specializing in crafting character-driven visual stories. Katz has worked with editorial outlets including The New York Times Lens blog, Time magazine, Oxford American, and Pop-Up Magazine. Currently she is the photo editor for Medium.com. She was the Director of Still Photography for Lifetime/A+E Networks special digital project, “Her America: 50 Women 50 States” and the Senior Photography Producer on a collaborative project with Getty Images, Dove and Girlgaze that won the Silver Glass Lion at Cannes in 2019.



Shopping Cart