Languages Spoken: Spanish
Biography: Edgar Barens was born in Aurora, Illinois. He received his Bachelors degree and Masters of Fine Arts in Cinema and Photography from Southern Illinois University, where he concentrated on photography and film production.
His body of work includes documentary films, experimental shorts, music videos and public service announcements, which have been screened at film festivals, conferences, broadcast nationally and internationally as well as distributed educationally.
For the past ten years Barens' documentary work has explored the many issues at play in the American criminal justice system. Prior to PRISON TERMINAL, his most significant documentary films were ANGOLA PRISON HOSPICE: OPENING THE DOOR and A SENTENCE OF THEIR OWN.
Recent Film Work -
ANGOLA PRISON HOSPICE: OPENING THE DOOR examines one of the nation's first prison-based hospice programs, and explores the special needs of the incarcerated hospice patient. The documentary provides a moving account of how the hospice experience can profoundly touch even forsaken lives and has been instrumental in jump-starting numerous hospices throughout the U.S. correctional system.
A SENTENCE OF THEIR OWN chronicles one family's annual pilgrimage to a New Hampshire State Prison making visible the gradual descent of a family "doing time" on the outside. The documentary calls for a closer examination and deeper understanding of our growing use of incarceration and its impact on families, communities, and our culture at large.
A SENTENCE OF THEIR OWN received numerous awards, including the CINE Golden Eagle Award recognizing excellence in the craft of video/film production and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency PASS Award, the only national award recognizing filmmakers who focus on our criminal justice system in a thoughtful and considerate manner.
Barens is producer, director and sometimes editor of his documentary films. He prefers to work solo, believing that a deeper trust is gained with his subjects by working in this manner.
For A SENTENCE OF THEIR OWN Barens spent two summers with the Raymond family, documenting the trials and tribulations of a fragile family teetering on the brink of poverty.
During the course of making the film Barens bonded with the entire family and to this day remains in contact with them.
On Prison Terminal
Barens approached the production of PRISON TERMINAL much in the same way he approached the production of A SENTENCE OF THEIR OWN. By working solo in the Fort Madison prison, without the encumbrance of a production crew, his presence and eventual acceptance into the daily workings of the prison hospice was seamless as is humanly possible.
In preparation for PRISON TERMINAL Barens attended a 14-week hospice volunteer training course offered by his local community hospice. The training provided him with the knowledge base to fully understand the needs of the terminally ill patient and the duties of a hospice volunteer.
Prison Terminal was shot in the classic documentary style of cinema verité; where the camera simply documents events as they unfold before the lens. The camera was not passive in its approach, but curious, fluid, moving within and around the action in a seamless choreography of image and sound.
To accomplish such proximity to the characters without altering their reality, a bond of trust between subjects and filmmaker was essential. Consequently, the first month was spent with the prison hospice volunteers, correctional and medical staff, clergy, as well as the folks from the community hospice who trained the prisoners much how the filmmaker himself was trained by his community hospice.
Barens spent time with his subjects, getting to know them as individuals, their likes and dislikes, their routines, their temperaments and their personal histories before and after they entered the walls of the Fort Madison maximum security prison. Once a trusting environment was established the camera was gradually introduced into the environment and shooting steadily increased from day to day.
For PRISON TERMINAL Barens was granted unprecedented access to the Iowa State Penitentiary. Since the core of the film revolved around the dying prisoner, 24/7 access to the hospice was extremely important. Consequently the Iowa Department of Corrections allowed the filmmaker round-the-clock access to the ISP hospice.
Several prison systems in the United States have begun to build exceptional hospice programs, which include chapels, bereavement services, and an extensive network of prisoner and community volunteers. It is the hope of the filmmaker that PRISON TERMINAL will assist in making these services permanent throughout the U.S. Correctional system, ensuring that inmates no longer have to die alone.