Lesson 12: The Corrections System

Topic 7: About Broken House

Broken House: Life in a Kid’s Prison

Broken House is a film that takes place in a youth custody centre. The film was written, directed and filmed by Unit X, a group of seven young people who were in British Columbia’s Burnaby Youth Secure Custody Centre for violent crimes when they made the film. They were guided by Larry Lynn, a Vancouver cinematographer and educator.

Although fictional, the film reflects the realities of the filmmakers’ lives and their experiences in jail. The members of Unit X, who cannot be identified under the Youth

Criminal Justice Act, demonstrated the tenacity to stick with a program that allowed their imagination to run free. In order to create a script true to their realities, the young people reflected deeply about their own particular crimes and how they affected other people. They have moulded their imaginings into a coherent story that resonates strongly with audiences. There is usually an audible gasp at the climax of the film.

Broken House is about the choices young people make, the circumstances of their lives that influence their choices, and the resulting consequences. It is hoped that the film will stimulate a dialogue in youth institutions and schools across the country about the devastating, unpredictable and uncontrollable effects of youth violence

A Note on Youth Correctional Facilities in Canada

While watching Broken House, viewers may wonder why staff didn’t intervene as tension escalated between the main characters. In this respect, the film does not reflect reality and the film’s plot required inaction on the part of the staff in certain scenes. The film does not suggest that correctional services staff members are inattentive or ineffective. The film’s ending also does not reflect reality. To date in British Columbia, no young person has ever been killed while in custody at a youth correctional facility.

Caution for the Teacher

Teachers should view Broken House on their own before showing it to their classes. Broken House deals with a serious subject in a realistic way and may prompt a strong emotional response from some students. It is recommended that teachers help students discuss their responses to the film immediately after watching it. The British Columbia Film Classification Office has rated Broken House 14A because it portrays violence and contains coarse, sexual language. Children under the age of 14 should watch it only in the presence of an adult.

Themes and Scenes

We have recommended that teachers choose one or more themes to focus on in their class discussion. A scene from Broken House accompanies each of the identified themes. The identified themes are the ones that are viewed as the most prominent in the accompanying scenes. Of course, there are some scenes involving multiple themes.

The table below provides a summary of the clip numbers, the associated themes, the clip length, and the suggested time for discussion of each one. The times for discussion are suggestions only; please do not feel confined by them.

Clip Theme Scene Clip Length Time for Discussion

1

Responsibility

Damon assaults the other kid on the basketball court

1 min

20 minutes

 

2

Loss of Freedom

Damon in his cell on his first night in jail

40 sec

5 minutes

3

Jealousy and Anger

Damon and Eddy’s first meeting on the basketball court

1.30 min

10 minutes

 

4

Boys and Girls in Jail Together?

Kids meeting in the gym

30 sec

5 minutes

5

Gangs, Family and Government Care

The brothers meet in the classroom

2.15 min

15 minutes

6

Victimization in Jail

Eddy attacks Damon in the gym

1.30 min

20 minutes

7

Manipulative Relationships

Lacey gives Damon the shiv

1.30 min

15 minutes

8

Making Decisions

Damon decides to keep the shiv in his shoe

15 sec

10 minutes

9

Violence and Unintended Consequences

Final Scene

1.30 min

30 minutes