The tale of a black man being incarcerated seems like old news, especially considering the environment that brews nowadays in the United States after George Floyd’s case, along with many others. However, Nkosi Gray-El’s story is not a common one and, despite black being the color of his skin, that is not the focal point of his tale.
Nkosi practices yoga since he was a child so, after getting jailed, yoga was a really important mechanism of keeping his cool and composure behind bars. Studies seem to show that yoga can improve the lives of prisoners and, in fact, Nkosi’s example corroborates that, as he started to teach his fellow inmate how to practice these practices.
Despite taking part in that transformative process, life after release posed new challenges to Nkosi. However, after being introduced to the New York based director Candice Delevante, his story turned into NKOSI: ECLIPSED, a short film that also stemmed from this director’s interest in the subject after reading an article focusing on prison yoga:
“The topic germinated in my head for a few months, because when I heard Nkosi’s story, I voiced my interest and desire to make a documentary about prison yoga. And here we are. It was a pretty fluid process from discovery to completion. Nkosi was very gracious and gave me carte blanche from pre-production all the way through postproduction.”
This short film also tries to shed some light on a broader topic, related to prison reform in general. According to Delevante, who is a 2020 Bric Arts Media Documentary Intensive Cohort and has previous work related to corporate crime and racism, mass incarceration is a serious problem in a country where the prison system works for profit:
“I am just an outsider looking in, but it doesn’t take an academic to see that mass incarceration is a highly dysfunctional system that operates in plain sight. Prisons are a for-profit enterprise which enriches many industries, including Wall Street, on the backs of modern indentured servants. Personally, I would say this is essentially a racket which should be outlawed, and reform should become a mandate.”
NKOSI: ECLIPSED aims to raise awareness for all these problems, and Delevante is making it available for any advocacy groups interested in screening it by simply reaching via her website. The trailer for the short film can be seen on Vimeo.