“To love someone who’s locked up isn’t a marginal experience – it’s an American one….”
Kristal Bush is a young, ambitious Philadelphian driven to keep families connected to their incarcerated loved ones. But when her father and brother return from prison, she confronts the ultimate question: can she reunite her own family?
Growing up, Bush watched nearly every man in her life disappear to prison. She channeled that struggle into keeping families connected, both as a social worker and with her van service that drives families to visit loved ones in far-off prisons. But when Bush’s dad and brother return to Philly, her happiness meets the realization that release doesn’t always mean freedom.
This intimate documentary—winner of Best Documentary at the American Black Film Festival—is an honest portrait of one family striving to love in the face of a system built to break them.
Passionate, funny and resilient, Bush remains determined to carve out a different future — for herself and for her young nephew, Nyvae.
Bush is committed to family, and even more so making sure that women who have loved ones in prison in the outskirts of Philly have a weekly chance to visit their own incarcerated family members. In what seems like more than a 12-hour trip, Bush picks up woman after woman, some with youngsters in tow, to take them on their journey to just spend a bit of time with their husbands, brothers, boyfriends, etc.
It is known that Bush has many family members who have been incarcerated— even a brother who is released after 11 years and featured in the documentary to an unfamiliar environment—and she doesn’t want any woman to be left out of the connection that is so easily broken by incarceration.
“More than a quarter of women in this country have had a loved one incarcerated. For Black women like Kristal, the odds are even higher. To love someone who’s locked up isn’t a marginal experience – it’s an American one,” said Lisa Riordan Seville. “For six years, we have collaborated with Kristal and her family to make a film about their experience, through the female lens. Braiding Kristal’s photos, videos and voice with our verité footage, we strove to go beyond a story about prison to tell one of family, love and how women care for themselves while caring for others.”
Stated Raqueal Pullums, READI for Reentry Program Manager, “Often times, it’s the women who are holding down the household and giving their last dollar to support their loved one that is incarcerated. Women, especially Black women, have been conditioned to take care of everyone else before themselves, and this continues on today.
“Making ends meet is the norm in these households. We at READI for Reentry want to step in to offer support and resources to fill in the gap not only to our participants but to the households that they are returning to.”
“A Woman on the Outside” will be screened on February 1 at 6 p.m., at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St. Tickets are $14.69. The film screening and panel will feature READI Chicago staff and documentary collaborators, exploring how families support incarcerated loved ones, and the difficulties of reintegrating. Seville and Bush are scheduled to attend.
For more information and to buy tickets, visit siskelfilmcenter.org.