Last seen at this year’s FIN Atlantic International Film Festival, the Nova Scotia-shot documentary Conviction will reach a broader audience with its upcoming screening on the Documentary Channel on December 1.

In the 2019 documentary, a team of filmmakers gained access to Dartmouth’s Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility and the Nova Institution for Women in Truro. Unlike traditional documentaries where filmmakers simply conduct interviews, the trio of filmmakers instead collaborated with the women in the facilities to create a deeply personal and prisoner’s-eye documentary.

Blurring the lines between the conventional roles of director, crew, interviewer, and subjects, the women in the film were empowered to develop their ideas, experiment with all aspects of filmmaking, and celebrate their own voices. “This collaborative process is at the heart of our vision and drives our process as filmmakers, the film’s point of view, the content, and the creative style of the documentary,” said the filmmakers.

It would be a process that Bianca Mercer, who was awaiting sentence at the Dartmouth facility during filming, says in an interview with the Documentary Channel that would change her life. “In them, I found a great team of people who had believed in what I saw for myself and what I’m capable of doing. It took three directors coming into the middle of my worst nightmare to change my entire outlook on life.”

In his review from the Atlantic Film Festival earlier this year, film critic Jordan Parker called Conviction “the type of documentary that’s so difficult to watch, but so incredibly necessary.” Republished with permission, Parker goes onto say:

This trio of female directors made up of Nance Ackerman, Arielle Pahlke and Teresa MacInnes create a sharp, moving picture here.

It follows Caitlin, Laura, Treena, and Bianca, and shows how poverty, trauma, sexual abuse and other factors lead to the incarceration of female inmates.

Conviction doesn’t ask for prison form. What it searches for is much more than that. It aims for societal change, as it consistently asks the women in prison, “what would you have needed to not end up here?”

That central question flows through the film, and as we see and feel these women’s struggles, we understand how they ended up where they are.

Conviction asks tough questions. Should these women be in prison, or therapy and rehab? Imagine the money being spent to put them behind bars, and how important it could be in helping them recover.

This is a powerful, interesting look at this issue, and takes a stance that’s different from the norm. It’s a worthwhile endeavour for a myriad of reasons.

Conviction will make its national television debut on the Documentary Channel on December 1. Check your local television listings for showtimes. You can also find out more about the film online at convictiondocumentary.com.