Check out the full coverage of Tres Maison Dasan on Washington City Paper here.
One in 14 children in the United States have a parent who was formerly or is currently incarcerated. Although certain pieces of pop culture have, in recent years, given those on the outside an idea of what life is like for inmates, less attention is given to what impact a parent’s incarceration has on their young children. Denali Tiller’s debut documentary looks at three boys in Rhode Island, each of whom has a parent in a state correctional facility when we meet them.
But despite having this one thing in common, the boys’ lives follow very different paths. Dasan, just 6 years old at the beginning of the film, reunites with his mother, Stephanie, relatively quickly. Upon her release, her greatest challenge is working with her social worker to explain to Dasan where she’s been while keeping up with the needs of her growing son. For the audience, that means cringe-inducing footage of scooter crashes and Cub Scout camping trips.
Maison, who lives with his grandmother while his father is incarcerated and his mother looks for work in California, struggles with their absence and to relate to his peers. You can see the wrenching sadness on his face when he realizes that the father he loves has done something truly terrible. Tre, on the other hand, has taken his abandonment issues to the other extreme: At age 12, he’s already on probation and wearing an ankle monitor.
The film’s most sobering moments come when the children and their parents discuss how they got to this point. Before reaching high school, these boys understand that their parents are fallible. Seeing them come to terms with their actions and their complicated futures is heartbreaking. —Caroline Jones
June 14, 6 p.m., AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center; June 17, 4:45 p.m., Landmark E Street Cinema.