WRIT WRITER tells the story of a self-taught jailhouse lawyer named Fred Arispe Cruz who challenged the constitutionality of prison conditions in Texas in the 1960s, and launched the state’s prisoners’ rights movement.
The film uses narration adapted from prison diaries, letters, legal pleadings, and courtroom testimony by writer Dagoberto Gilb (The Flowers, The Last Known Residence of Mickey Acuna, The Magic of Blood, and Gritos) and performed in voice-over by actor Jesse Borrego (24, The New World, Blood In, Blood Out).
Archival film footage is drawn from documentary films about Texas prisons and several large collections of still photography complement the motion picture. With recollections from Cruz’s friends and contemporaries – including ex-convicts, prisoners, and former wardens – further personalizing it, the film’s narrative spine and visual history creates an honest, unsentimental portrayal of Cruz.
The music in the film was written and performed by Gabe Rhodes (Austin-based musician and producer), with additional compositions by composer and musician Joel Guzman using the traditional accordion sounds of Central and South Texas.
As the United States faces criticism today for the incarceration of foreign “enemy combatants” without access to attorneys or legal proceedings at prisons abroad, WRIT WRITER recalls the prisoners’ rights movement of the Civil Rights era here in the U.S., and the conditions that inspired prisoners like Fred Cruz to speak out.