Another great documentary out of South By Southwest this year was SONGS FROM THE HOLE which premiered to capacity crowds at all of its screenings. I really wish I could have met filmmaker Contessa Gayle to give her my congratulations on such an experience!

About: At 15, he took a life. Three days later, his brother’s life was taken. A documentary visual album, “Songs from the Hole” follows James “JJ’88” Jacobs through a musical opus of Hip-Hop and Soul, inspired by his innermost struggles as both a person who has committed and experienced violent harm, as he serves a double-life prison sentence. The film interweaves the collective storytelling of its non-fiction participants with imagined representations of memories, dreams and spiritual dialogues set to its protagonist/co-creator’s original music.

Filmmaker Contessa Gayles
Jason Whyte | Get Reel Movies

Jason’s Reaction: I was not ready for this one. SONGS FROM THE HOLE took what I thought would be a tale of prison life (this was also the main topic for the beloved SING SING, also playing at SxSW) but instead a powerful, telling look at the total mental and physical process of being incarcerated from the perspective of a young boy who was convicted as an adult. SONGS FROM THE HOLE is told in such a beautiful form of poetry, visual cues and some of the most heartbreaking interviews I have seen at the festival this year. Everything about it, from the strong interviews, the recreations and especially the music sequences are all a complete original, and filmmaker Contessa Gayle (pictured above) is very wise to tell this inner city story this way. Though I watched a screener of SONGS FROM THE HOLE, I really wish I could have seen it on the big screen during the festival and to also hear the audience reactions after. I am hoping this gets a nice theatrical release or even just an event screening of some sort as I would love for wider audiences to check it out.

For more information, point your browser to!

Leave a Reply