WASHINGTON, D.C. — “Shot Caller,” the new movie from Ric Roman Waugh, is the story of a middle class professional (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) whose DUI accident leads to a prison term and a transformation into a hardened felon.
Although the movie is an illuminating look at how incarceration leads to recidivism rather than rehabilitation, Waugh says that it is not a call for prison reform.
Rather, he says, “If you do the crime, you should do the time. I don’t have any sympathy for criminals. I have empathy for people stuck in a system that become über gangsters when they were petty criminals before, or who made mistakes, because it is gladiator school in there. Violence breeds violence.”
“The bigger factor that nobody has taken into account is when you subject any human being to a tremendous amount of violence over a long period, then they are going to be rewired differently to that set of rules, to that way of life, so that when they come out they are no longer living by society’s rules,” Waugh explains. “That is the more common denominator that is tripping a lot of them up. They gravitate more toward the people they feel in tune with.”
Waugh volunteered for the California Department of Corrections, which helped inspire not just “Shot Caller” but two other movies centered on prison life, “Felon” and “Snitch.”
“I am not here to tell you what prison reform is, I have no idea what that looks like,” he admits. “I think my job as a filmmaker is to put you inside of a controversy, walk you through that controversy, warts and all, unbiased and unflinching, so that it creates a debate and creates a discussion.
“My only takeaway from several years on this journey … is that you got a lot of people that are going to talk about advocacy groups, talk about a system that is broken,” says Waugh. “But I think we also have to take a real cold hard look at the other side of it, which is the men and women coming out of prison, and how do we help them, but how they help themselves. How do they break the cycle of what is happening to them and their lives?”
Waugh also talks about why the white supremacist gangs in prisons are different from those who showed up in Charlottesville.
Van Jones and ‘We Rise’
Van Jones talks about his tour, called ‘We Rise,’ and how it changed since the Charlottesville unrest. He also says that it is a false choice to think that Democrats can’t address voters’ economic worries if they speak out on racial issues.
Statues and History
Tim Naftali, professor at New York University, talks about the history of Confederate statues and their significance in the era of Jim Crow.
Trump, Republicans and What’s Next
Nikki Schwab of Daily Mail and David Cohen of Variety talk about the Republican response to President Donald Trump’s insistence that “both sides” were to blame for the Charlottesville violence.
“PopPolitics,” hosted by Variety‘s Ted Johnson, airs from 2-3 p.m. ET-11 a.m.-noon PT on SiriusXM’s political channel POTUS. It also is available on demand.