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A24's Sing Sing opens Phoenix Film Fest

Updated: Apr 23

By Anna Olp

The 2024 Phoenix Film Festival kicked off its opening night April 4, at Harkins 101 Scottsdale, with a screening of the A24 film “Sing Sing.” Directed by Greg Kwedar, who was in attendance at the screening, the film takes place in the Sing Sing maximum security prison located in Ossining, New York, and is based on the real stories of people who were formerly incarcerated in the facility. 

“Sing Sing” was the first of over 200 titles featured during the 24th annual Phoenix Film Fest, which concluded April 14th. 

The story follows its main character, ‘Divine G', played by Colman Domingo as he continues to navigate prison and his emotional well-being after being wrongly convicted of murder and incarcerated for decades. 

‘Divine G’ and the other characters of the film are all involved with a program called Rehabilitation Through the Arts, or RTA, which is a real program that has been at the Sing Sing prison since 1996. 

Graduates of the RTA program make up the majority of the cast, playing themselves in the film. According to Kwedar, it was important for his creations to have as much influence from their true experiences as possible. 

Kwedar discovered RTA after learning about alternative forms of rehabilitation in prison. He 

researched the concept while filming a short documentary in a prison facility that connected incarcerated people with service animals. 

The movie took on many shapes while in the making, but the final product is one that both A24 and Kwedar are excited to release to the public. 

“[The people at A24] love the films that they represent, and they fight for them. They’re going to care for this film as much as I did making it,” Kwedar said. 

According to Kwedar, ensuring the details of the film are correct becomes even more important when working with actors who have lived the experiences they’re portraying on screen. 

Despite being set in a prison, which is known for its monotony and uniformity, Kwedar worked together with costume designer Desira Pesta to bring life to each of the characters in the film while still adhering to the many regulations prisoners have to comply with.  

“Our challenge was showing the uniform of incarceration in the homogenous nature of ‘greens,’ which are a symbol just as much as they are an outfit,” Kwedar said. “We had to find flourishes in personality amidst a sea of green and how to bring out each character's personality.” 

By altering the way each character's mandated prison uniform was tapered, cut, and sewn Kwedar and Pesta were able to create individuality among the people that were incarcerated. 


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