The Life and Mind of Mark Defriest

The Naples International Film Festival celebrated the independent film circuit by providing this gem, which won the Audience Award for documentary: The Life and Mind of Mark Defriest.

Have you ever read Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, or have you ever seen the movie?

Like the depiction in Kesey’s novel, The Life and Mind of Mark Defriest is the real life story of a man’s life that ricocheted out of control in the prison system.

The catalyst of Mark’s story is his youth and ignorance.

Mark was very close to his father; both of whom were well skilled mechanics, so when his father died, he took the tools that he understood were his, but at age 19, he didn’t understand the meaning of probate. His step-mother called the police. When the police arrived at Mark’s residence, he reacted by fleeing the scene.

He was later caught, charged with theft, and sentenced to four years in prison.

34 years later he’s still in prison, 27 of those years in solitary confinement.

How could something so minor go so wrong?

This documentary tells the story of a brilliantly gifted man in a prison system that’s designed for the survival of the fittest. Given Mark’s intelligence, his inventive nature, and understanding how, and what, his father taught him, it is no wonder he became known as the Houdini of prison escapes. Numerous disciplinary reports—some for the most minor infractions—have added years to Mark’s sentencing, not to mention the psychiatrist who thought he was faking mental illness. Given ridiculous psych tests (the MMPI), having been gang raped, and vying for protection while in prison by becoming a sex slave to a fellow prisoner, this story will leave you sickened by our prison system.

Mark’s story is creating an impassioned outcry from viewers. Mark is eligible for possibly changing the date of his parole this November 19th. Anyone interested in taking ACTION?

Using powerful storytelling tools, this documentary combines animation for telling backstory, legal documents for telling the institutional story, and real footage to tell the present day. It’s like watching an episode of Frontline.

This documentary also received a Hotdocs Award in Toronto.

Directed by Gabriel London, and produced by Found Object Films and Naked Edge Films, this documentary is going to leave it’s mark on you.