UIC staffer’s documentary up for an Oscar Sunday

Man lying with hands tucked under head

A scene from “Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall,” directed by Edgar Barens  in the Jane Addams College of Social Work. Photo: HBO Documentary Films

The UIC community has a special reason to watch the live broadcast of the 86th Academy Awards Sunday.

A documentary by Edgar Barens, media specialist in the Jane Addams Center for Social Policy and Research, is up for an Academy Award in the Documentary Short Subject category.

“Ever since the nomination was announced, my life has been in a whirlwind,” says Barens of his documentary “Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall.”

“The feelings that washed over me the moment I saw my name and the title of my film on the list of nominees was overwhelming and I must admit I started sobbing with feelings of happiness and accomplishment.”

“Prison Terminal” documents the final days in the life of a terminally ill inmate serving a life sentence for murder, and the inmates who care for him in the prison’s hospice program.

The film draws from exclusive footage shot inside the Iowa State Penitentiary, one of America’s oldest maximum-security prisons.

Barens’ documentary, “A Sentence of Their Own,” received the CINE Golden Eagle and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) award.

His other work includes documentaries, experimental shorts, music videos and public service announcements, screened at film festivals, conferences and national and international broadcasts, as well as in educational distribution.

The attention “Prison Terminal” has received has been “absolutely overwhelming and a testament to the urgency of the subject matter and the emotional power of the film,” Barens says.

“Clearly, to finally get recognition from the academy is a dream come true — something I think I have always fantasized about but never truly thought it would ever happen.”

Creasie Finney Hairston, professor and dean of the Jane Addams College of Social Work and director of the social policy center, supported the film’s completion as a center project.

Barens says he is grateful for the encouragement he has received from his colleagues in the College of Social Work.

“Their excitement has been palpable from the earliest inklings of a possible Oscar nomination,” Barens says.

“As a filmmaker, you lock yourself away in a darkroom for years on end toiling away on a project, leaving your colleagues to wonder just what the heck you’re working on!

“So to have such a heartfelt response from my colleagues has been a truly wonderful experience and one that stands out for me in this pretty magical time.”

The film debuts March 31 on HBO.


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