1. Prison Valley - iPhone app and Documentary Film about Colorado’s Prison Industry

    Prison Valley is an interesting new media project that echoes the mixed content features from CD-ROMs, those digital relics from the upbeat frontier days before the cyberwebs. The production centers on a documentary film exploring life in Colorado’s Fremont County, home to 9 state and 4 federal prisons that form the basis of the region’s local economy. Nearly three hours south of Denver in Cañon City, “the City Beautiful,” Prison Valley evokes a darker picture of life for its residents and nearly 8,000 prisoners that live there. The film’s opening reel from the trailer features the white-knuckling descent from Skyline Drive — a stretch of road one-lane wide on a rugged roller-coaster ridge overlooking the town’s expanse on the mesa below. And like an invocation to Dante’s Inferno, a voice-over announces that Cañon City is “the clean version of hell.”

    It’s a perspective that might not be shared with its small-town population. Cañon City is sited in the western edge of Colorado prairie in the foothills of the Front Range and about 40 minutes west of Interstate 25, the main north-south highway artery connecting Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo and continuing south to Albuquerque, New Mexico. The community’s surrounding natural beauty attracts seasonal whitewater rafting, fishing and climbing, and includes the deep 10-mile canyon Royal Gorge and the Royal Gorge Bridge, the world’s highest suspension bridge at 1,053 feet above the Arkansas River. The region’s rough wind-hewn landscape has even attracted the attention of French artists Christo and the late Jeanne-Claude who plan a temporary fabric art installation in 2013 along the Arkansas River’s corridor called Over the River.

    The Prison Valley project focuses on the insular world of the penitentiary system and the cities of Cañon City and Florence in Fremont County. Although the setting’s remoteness is by design, small town life thrives in these hardscrabble communities. Site visitors watching the opening reel of the Prison Valley “webdocumentary” are treated to a glimpse of Cañon City under ashen clouds and rain-soaked skies. The production looks very good, and it should. FastCompany quotes a $300,000 production cost for the project. However, the eerie sinister feel from the film’s introduction looks as if Wim Wenders had made a claustrophobic road movie with David Lynch en route to a dystopian small town. Empty streets lend a ghost-town ambiance, and a vacant parking lot at the small Riviera Motel convey a haunting first-impression as rain water collects in a storm drain. Clearly, these communities supporting the prison industry are not vibrant road-stops on the map.

    Site visitors choosing to share the ride on the journey’s continued descent in Prison Valley can register with the site and share their progress with their Facebook and Twitter accounts. The webdocumentary also offers points in the film timeline to explore historical details, participate in interactive discussions about the prison system, and view other inserted media details about the film’s setting and the subject.

    The iPhone app is free to download, which features the film trailer and some additional clips from the reel, which is a documentary directed by French filmmakers David Dufresne and Philippe Brault, and was produced by Upian for arte.tv, the French-German arts and culture television network which is kind of like the Sundance Channel. Online, site visitors can view the film which takes viewers on a journey from nearby Florence, Colorado, to life around Cañon City using the Riviera Motel as a home base.

    Watch scenes from Prison Valley in the following trailer from Vimeo:

    PRISON VALLEY : Le Trailer from Cédric Delport on Vimeo.

    Prison Valley Official Site:  prisonvalley.arte.tv
    Prison Valley - The Blog: prisonvalley.arte.tv/blog/en/
    Prison Valley - iPhone App: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/prison-valley/id368034298?mt=8

    Pictured left to right: Prison Valley logo, landscape terrain and prison (production images), screen capture detail from Prison Valley webdocumentary.

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