“Life means life.”
That’s an expression, we learn in “Music From the Big House,” often referred to by the inmates of Louisiana’s Angola Prison on their chances of getting parole after receiving a life sentence. In other words: No way, no how.
Canadian blues singer Rita Chiarelli decides to visit Angola after hearing it might have some of the purest forms of the blues anywhere.
It’s not difficult to imagine why, when you see and hear from the men incarcerated there.
We are not told what crimes they’ve committed until the very end of the movie. That was purposeful, so as not to taint our impression of their musical talents, which are considerable.
Rita will organize a concert featuring four bands created within the prison. In what was once a horrifying and violent place, the warden now rewards good behavior with accessibility to instruments. It gives the men something to look forward to.
You can tell their hearts are definitely into it as they move from gospel to funk, and from soul to the blues with all the vigor they can muster. Rita is touched by the experience and befriends a number of these “lifers” who are appreciative of her kind efforts.
This is just a simple black and white movie with a series of interviews and songs, but I guarantee you will be moved by “Music From the Big House.”