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Out for Good tells the story of Eddie B. Ellis Jr., a Prince George’s County resident who spent 15 years in jail for manslaughter. Now in his 30s—-he was convicted in his teens—-Ellis works with recently released convicts (called “homecomers”) to help them readjust to life outside the prison system. Nico Colombant‘s 20-minute film serves to spark a conversation about ex-convicts’ difficulties readjusting to life outside.
Unfortunately, Out for Good doesn’t offer much in the way of narrative. More could be dredged from Ellis’ work and impact, other than the presented visits to classrooms, youth groups, and the Community Supervision office at 25 K St. NE. He spends time playing basketball with youths as part of an informal ministry; he also speaks to a class at American University. Jumping from site to site with little explanation, the film doesn’t deliver a particularly enriched picture of his life and work.
But its strengths lie in interviews with Ellis’ uncle and younger brother (whose names are not given). “I didn’t know what he was locked up for; I didn’t even know what jail it was,” says his brother. “It was like I didn’t know him. I hadn’t seen him in years. We really just now getting to know each other, like, on a real basis.” On a fishing trip, Ellis’ uncle (who also did time) provides the most insight into the difficulties faced by homecomers: “As ex-convicts, we are going through a lot of different emotions, a lot of different physical changes, mental changes,” he says. “Because your thought process while you’re in an institution is not the same as being in society. You, primarily, have to try to differentiate between the two. Just be patient with the person that’s just coming home, lending them all the support you can possible muster up.”
The film shows Sunday as part of Our City Film Festival at the Goethe Institut.