The Prisoner and the Academy

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It doesn’t faze convict-journalist Wilbert Rideau that he won’t be able to attend this year’s Oscars, even though his searing look at the hopelessness of prison life, "The Farm: Angola, USA," is up for an Academy Award as best documentary film and will be encored on the Arts & Entertainment Network on March 15 and March 20. “One thing about prison is it keeps things in perspective,” says co-director Rideau, who is 57 and has served 38 years in Louisiana prisons on a life sentence for murder. “The award would be nice, but it won’t change my life one iota. I will still walk down to the chow hall afterwards for my beans and rice.” "The Farm" examines the bleak struggle of six convicts lost in a living graveyard where few ever get out. Rideau, who taught himself to read and write while on death row for 11 years, kept his story out of the film because, he explains, “it’s the only way to get credibility -- people listen to you better.” He has no illusions that his own long legal struggle for freedom will succeed. “If the courts go by the law, I’ll win. If not, I’ll lose. It is that simple.” As for the Oscars, Rideau says, “it would be nice to be there. But if I don’t go this time, there will be another time. I still have a lot of creative juices left in me.”