Tommy Oliver (“1982”) directs, produces and shoots the documentary 40 Years a Prisoner, chronicling the controversial 1978 Philadelphia police raid on the radical back-to-nature group MOVE and the aftermath that led to a son’s decades long fight to free his parents.
The film illuminates the story of a city grappling with racial tension and police brutality with alarming topicality and modern-day relevance.
After the World Premiere as an official selection and special presentation of the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival; 40 Years a Prisoner will debut Thursday, December 3, exclusively on HBO.
40 Years a Prisoner follows Mike Africa Jr., the son of two MOVE members imprisoned for the death of a police officer during the raid, who commits his life to fighting for the release of his parents who he has only known through prison walls. The documentary features eyewitness accounts and archival footage of the escalating tension that results in the controversial confrontation between police and MOVE members.
“I spent three years of my life making a film about the indominable will of a son to free his parents who were fighting against police brutality, systemic racism, and wrongful incarceration in the 1970s,” stated director Tommy Oliver. “Three years of work that I would have happily tossed away if our country was in a responsible place where things like police shootings of unarmed Black people weren’t daily occurrences and where phrases like ” I can’t breathe” weren’t treated as memes… but that’s not the world we live in and as long as it’s not, it’s the role of the artist to shine as bright of a light as possible on those things. 40 Years a Prisoner is my light.”
The film was executive produced by Derek Dudley, and Shelby Stone for Freedom Road Productions, John Legend, Mike Jackson, and Ty Stiklorius for Get Lifted Film Co., and Keith Gionet and Adam Platzner for Confluential Films. The film was edited by Joe Kehoe and Tommy Oliver and features original music by The Roots.