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New Documentary Features John Leguizamo Performing In Front Of Rikers Island Inmates

Award-winning actor, filmmaker, and activist John Leguizamo has joined Xfinity for his documentary film John Leguizamo Live at Rikers.

John Leguizamo Live at Rikers

The documentary, which is directed by Elena Engel of Azimuth Films, features Leguizamo performing his hit one-man Broadway show Ghetto Klown at Rikers Island Correctional Facility for an audience of over 400 inmates.

Following the performance, Leguizamo leads intimate group discussions with young men who are enrolled in Getting Out and Staying Out (GOSO), an anti-recidivism program that provides 800 justice-involved young men with the services and resources they need to further their education, secure meaningful employment and achieve emotional well-being. Participants in the program have sustained recidivism rates at or below 15%, an incredible achievement considering the annual rates of 64% among young men of a similar age group nationwide.

Watch "John Leguizamo Live at Rikers" on the "Black Experience" on Xfinity.

Leguizamo has received a Tony Award, four Emmys, and has been nominated for a Golden Globe award. “When I first started acting, I didn’t just want to be an entertainer, I wanted to be an artist. To me, that meant being a mouthpiece for the voiceless, and standing up for those that society overlooks,” explained Leguizamo in a statement made before the current SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes.

“After my performance at Rikers, I realized that there are few individuals more invisible than those who have been through America’s criminal justice system. After performing and talking with these men, it’s clear how much work still needs to be done to help lift them up,” he adds. The film interweaves performance excerpts with commentary from the inmates, as they identify with the narrative truths of Leguizamo’s storytelling.

“We were given a rare opportunity by the New York Department of Corrections to film at the Rikers main auditorium for an audience of 450 inmates and to interact with GOSO enrolled prisoners during group discussions. During filming, Leguizamo’s obvious deep empathy for these men opened a floodgate of truthful sharing as well as laughter in a place where laughter is not often heard,” said director/producer Engel. “I hope that the personal truths voiced by the participants in our film will encourage others to look further into the emotional and social issues of incarceration and to appreciate when justice-involved people have an opportunity to communicate what matters most to them. There is an enormous richness to be found in their renewed self-esteem and a desire for a better future."

The documentary was released September 15 on the Black Experience on Xfinity Channel, available on Xfinity X1, Flex, and on-the-go with the Xfinity Stream and Xumo apps, after a one-week Academy Award-qualifying theatrical run. The goal of the documentary is to inspire others to consider the emotional and social issues of incarceration, through hearing the voices of the incarcerated.

The documentary will certainly help viewers see the story of the incarcerated in a new way, with Leguizamo providing a dose of humor on the side to smooth the stories along the way.


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