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Seats At The Table

SEATS AT THE TABLE portrays a remarkable college class which connects university students with prisoners of a maximum security juvenile facility as they discuss classic works of Russian Literature.

University of Virginia Lecturer Andrew Kaufman created this course and has been teaching it since 2010. The literature provides a point of reference whereby they can discuss their lives openly and honestly and learn from each other. Each group's stereotypical views are replaced by a much more nuanced understanding of the other set of students as they form strong relationships which belies their original preconceptions. Both sets of students come away transformed by this singular educational experience, empowered to pursue lives of greater purpose and inspired by the discovery of their shared humanity.

SEATS AT THE TABLE explores the relationship between education and transformation, revealing the humanity behind institutional stereotypes, both collegiate and correctional.

'There are real factors that cause people to make different decisions, arrive in different circumstances, and form different sets of beliefs. But so much of what divides us is little more than fog; the appearance of division that clears the moment you approach it...What Seats at the Table shows us is that two people from different walks of life sitting across from one another can pierce fog as well as any classroom - by trusting their shared humanity.' Kristofer Jenson, C-VILLE

'A poignant and important film that illuminates the bond that can develop among young people having a shared experience - in this case, college students and young men in a correctional center studying Russian literature. The film is an excellent catalyst for discussion on empathy and human rights, and a wonderful tribute to an imaginative and trail-blazing teacher.' Susan Hackley, Managing Director, Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School

'This inspirational story of transformation and shared humanity is a moving testament that love and acceptance are key ingredients in helping a human being want to change enough to actually do it. Filmed with sensitivity and grace, Seats at the Table will stay with you long after the viewing. It plants a seed of hope for the future so essential for each of us. I cannot recommend it highly enough.' Judith Stevens, Founder, Prison Outreach Program, Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.)

'In addition to being a compelling and well-done film, Seats at the Table challenges some misconceptions about criminal justice and about college students and their appetite to tackle challenging topics. That's why it's a valuable experience for a variety of audiences beyond just the education world and a spark for important conversations about both higher education and incarcerated Americans. It's not an education story, it's an American story.' Andy Rotherham, Co-Founder and Partner, Bellwether Education Partners

'Seats At The Table confronts you with a series of heartbreaking moments where, just when the line between the free and incarcerated students begins to blur, one of the incarcerated students highlights the stark difference in their upbringing, privilege, and access to opportunities. Even despite those differences, the brilliance you see in the incarcerated students challenges us to question the true purpose and value of incarceration. Ultimately, the film underscores the need for us to find ways to address harm that allows people to remain in their communities. By locking people away we're missing out on their wisdom and the unique value they each bring.' Sia Henry, Senior Program Specialist, Restorative Justice Project, Impact Justice

'By juxtaposing our prejudices and our responsibility to a just society, while challenging our notions of ethics and security, [and] through this inspiring film the director and producer Chris Farina is offering us a mandatory educational tool, which presents an excellent starting point for several interesting classroom discussions.' Jasmina Bojic, Founder and Festival Director, UNAFF (United Nations Association Film Festival)

'Seats at the Table is an incredibly impactful film that breaks down societal and pedagogical stereotypes, and makes us rethink the way in which we navigate education in the juvenile-justice system. I cannot recommend this film more for anyone and everyone who wants to witness the transformative power of educational accessibility and a teacher who wants to make a difference.' Kat Stidham, SXSW (South by Southwest Festival)


Main credits

Farina, Chris (filmmaker)

Other credits

Editor, Bill Reifenberger; director of photography, Gene Rhodes.

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Distributor subjects

No distributor subjects provided.


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