The IF Project (Kathlyn Horan, 2016) 4 out of 4 stars
In 2008, a Seattle police officer named Kim Bogucki asked a group of inmates at the Washington Corrections Center for Women – all mothers – the following question: “If there was something someone could have said or done that would have changed the path that led you here, what would it have been?” Her intent was to obtain permission from them to work with their daughters in a Girl-Scouts initiative, but that question led one of the women, Renata Abramson, to some serious soul searching, which she expressed in writing, encouraging others to do the same. When Bogucki came back after a month, she was so overwhelmed by the essays that Abramson showed her, recognizing their obvious therapeutic value, that she decided to set up a permanent writing program at that facility, which she and Renata named “The IF Project.” The documentary of the same name chronicles the further development of the program and the evolution of the women within it.
Directed by Kathlyn Horan (Indigo Girls: One Lost Day), the film spans over seven years in the lives of its participants. It’s an especially remarkable achievement, given our level of intimacy with the subjects; we even follow three of the inmates as they are being released, and in the days and months afterwards. No matter their crime, each of them has a story worth hearing, and if the goal of incarceration is rehabilitation, there is no question that the writing workshops are a marvelous thing. Through that catharsis, during which the inmates discuss their own pasts, often filled with abuse, the women are able to achieve some peace from the burden of their sins. As one of them states, she had to come to prison to be free. Thanks to Bogucki, Abramson, Horan and all of the people profiled here, we are able to share that emotional journey, and emerge equally transformed.