Mr Wash

United States

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In the late 1990s, Fulton Leroy Washington – aka Mr Wash – was sentenced to life in prison for a non-violent drugs offense. During his 21 years behind bars, he found painting as a means of expressing himself, and he began to create eye-catching, photorealistic works depicting his fellow inmates in dreamy civilian settings, freeing them from their sentences with his brush. In 2014, he painted a work from the confines of prison showing the then-President Obama freeing him and granting him clemency, and this proved to be a prophetic move, as two years later Obama commuted his sentence during the final weeks of his presidency. We worked with writer Marisa Aveling and director Sean Mattison, to create Mr Wash, a documentary set amongst the palm trees and bungalows of Fulton’s native Compton, but one which also shines a light on the American legal system, and the many thousands of people still incarcerated for non-violent crimes as a result of the “war on drugs.” The film is formatted around a series of conversations between Fulton and his friends, family members and even his barber. Marisa and Sean present a film that underscores his connection with those he loves, making us feel part of his community rather than observers of it.

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Prison has a lot of politics. Art was a neutral zone and a way to express the human emotions that both I and the other inmates were feeling.