Reflecting on their lives, their crimes and wondering when they're going to get out, these men allow an intimate and humane glimpse into a world most of us don't get to, or want to, experience. Originally conceived as a documentary aimed at preventing youth violence, LIFERS evolved to become a deeper exploration of crime and humanity. A look at the prison system and the people entrenched in it, including inmates, their families and people who work with them. It also became the journey of a filmmaker looking to find answers to questions she hadn't known she was asking.
In Canada, unlike in the United States, people sentenced to life do, in most cases, get out of prison. Is ours a more humane system, or are we just letting murderers back on the streets to kill again? It would seem looking at the statistics and a recidivism rate of less than 1%, that rehabilitation may be possible. So, then the larger question comes into play: do these men deserve a second chance? The five men who share their stories share one thing in common, they have all taken the life, or lives, of another human being. They also each bring with them their own lessons.
LIFERS has been a long journey, but in the end, provides a human look at men who have been put in prison for murder and the system in which they live.
Lifers: Stories from Prison (2001)
Duration: 51 minutes
Directed by Sheona McDonald
KEVIN BAINBRIDGE was a drug addict and a drinker. For ten years he was addicted to speed. When he was 26 years old, he and a friend killed a pastor, who they believed to be a child molester. He was sentenced to Life-10, most of which he did in a maximum security. He cleaned up his act, got off the drugs and feels that the outside world isn't so far out of his grasp.
MEVA GILL is from an East Indian family. When he was 18 years old his father paid him $1,200 to kill his uncle. He did. And his aunt. He was sentenced to Life-25. Once inside he was also involved in an institutional murder. He has learned to read and write in prison, maintained a difficult relationship with his father, fostered a relationship with other members of his family, including his brother Ben, but getting out seems a long way off.
RYAN LOVE is “the boy next door”. He comes from a middle class Canadian family, is educated and has a very supportive family. When he was 18 he killed a 24 year old female cab driver in Banff, Alberta. He then fled to his parent’s home and hid for two years until the police found him. Talking to both Ryan and his family, we see that murder can touch anyone, we gain an intimate understanding of what it means to be parents of someone who kills.
BAYFIELD SILVEA was 20 when he robbed a man at knifepoint, and killed him. Sentenced to Life-10, his parole was up in 1994. He has turned to religion and wants to be a preacher. He seems to accept the punishment for his crime and is prepared to wait as long as he needs to.
TODD MATCHETT claims he didn’t actually kill anyone. He was just part of a brutal robbery turned murder. His association with Allan Legere makes the crime notorious in Eastern Canada. But does Todd understand his responsibility, does he recognize what he’s done and how the choices he made led to the murder of an innocent woman?
SHEONA McDONALD started Lifers as her first independent film when she was 22 years old. She was invited to work on this by the inmates who wanted to share their stories to benefit youth. She invested five years in the project and in the end she made the decision to narrate it. While completing this film, Sheona has field produced and directed five other films and has a number of other documentary and dramatic projects underway.