A documentary released in January of 2018 shows the unique hardships kids with an incarcerated parent go through and how prisons can sometimes remedy those struggles.
Director Denali Tiller’s work, Tre Maison Dasan, takes place over the course of three years and is centered around three young boys, Tre, Maison and Dasan, who each have an incarcerated parent. However, the meaning of this film goes beyond that.
“[It’s about] how each of them survived that experience,” Tiller said. “[The] different relationships with their parents, their caretakers and themselves.”
Tre, Maison and Dasan are the ones living through these difficulties, early on Tiller knew that they should be the ones who tell the story. Tiller found this approach to be more impactful.
“It really had to come from their perspective and feature their voices,” Tiller said.
Tre is the oldest of the three boys and was 13-years-old when Tiller met him. Tre lived with his mother before she passed away and with an incarcerated father, frequently battles the anger and love he feels for him.
Maison was 9-years-old when the film started. His father has been in prison since he was 1-year-old and his mother moved to California when he was 3-years-old. With both parents gone, he has been living with his grandmother. Even with parents distant to Maison’s life, he still has an unconditional love for them.
The third child is 6-year-old Dasan. Instead of telling Dasan the truth of his mother’s whereabouts, he was told she was in a “special school for grown-ups.” In the documentary, we see his mother tell Dasan the truth about where she has been for the past two years.
The boys and their families had to adapt to their personal lives being filmed. Tiller said that she wanted this project to feel like a collaboration with them, so it was necessary to get those intimate family moments in the documentary.
The film also illustrates the unique opportunities children experience when visiting their incarcerated parent in the Rhode Island prison systems. The film shows the quality time inmates and their children get to have with different activities such as crafts and games. Rhode Island’s Department of Corrections allows children to visit and physically interact with their incarcerated parents, unlike most other states.
A large sum of states in the United States do not allow children to visit their incarcerated parent, prohibiting a relationship between them.
Filming for Tre Maison Dasan began in 2014 and the documentary was completely finished in January 2018. Its premiere was at the San Francisco Film Festival this past April. It also was screened and won the award for best documentary at the Rhode Island International Film Festival in August 2018.
“Coming back to Rhode Island and seeing and feeling the support from everyone was really a special thing,” Tiller said. “It’s so special bringing it back to its roots and its origins.”
Tre Maison Dasan will be screened on Oct. 4 and Oct. 5 at the Raindance International Film Festival in London. There are also plans to screen the film at prisons across the country in hopes of showing people how beneficial this type of interactive parent-child visitation program is to family relationships.
“I want people to see that parents who are incarcerated are often good parents and love their kids and their kids love them,” Tiller said. “I want them to have that relationship.”
More information about the documentary can be found at www.tremaisondasan.com