Review of 7,500 Miles to Redemption at Ashland Film Festival

Image of Tinh Mahoney and Emiko Omori at the screening of 7,500 Miles of Redemption at the Ashland Film Festival.

I have to admit to neglecting documentaries during the film festivals this year.   I only saw one, Joy Division, at SXSW.   And I saw one yesterday, Ideal World, at the Ashland Film Festival.   Well today I saw two; Fair Trade and 7,500 Miles to Redemption.  

7,500 Miles to Redemption, directed by Emiko Omori, centers around the efforts of prisoners at the Oregon State Penitentiary to help raise the funds to build a school in Vietnam.   Their efforts are sparked after a performer Tinh Mahoney accepts an invitation to play and speak at the penitentiary.   Tinh inspires the prisoners with his story about the villages he is trying to help.
Image of prisoners in 7,500 miles to redemption by Emiko Omori
The pay off to the prisoner appears to be greater than they expected.   Seeing a prisoner quote Winston Churchill, “You make a living from what you get.   But you make a life from what you give†, is truly amazing.   Those types of values would lead to a life where prison would be highly unlikely.   That’s what was inspiring to me about this.   I could see the transforming event for people that have been largely written off.

Omori does a great job in showing the pride in the faces of the prisoners, and you can’t help but feel proud of them.   Having sacrificed a high percentage of the small income they have, they (as one of the inmates eloquently phrased it) have broken down the walls that hold them and reached out all the way to Vietnam.
Kids at school the prisoners of 7,500 miles to redemption built
These prisoners have done something they can be truly proud of.   There is one scene in particular that I found especially powerful.   As one of the inmates, Sam Sophanthavong, look through the photos of the school they helped build, and gently browses the drawings of the children as if they were created by his own children, the inmate says this is the thing he is proudest of in his life.   The image of a man in a prison uniform with a look of pride on his face if a little heart breaking.   The fact that he instinctively understands that its not the amount of money he gave, but the amount of himself he invested that made what he did special, that’s what is wonderful to me.   Someone with priorities like these will not likely be re-visiting prison.
Image of Sam Sophanthavong of 7,500 Miles to Redemption

Scenes like the above gave me something to think about, which is obviously the point of documentaries.   The world is a rough place, and it’s easy to lose your sense of values when being bombarded by ruthlessness.   But when these men were shown people suffering, something very different came out of their personalities.   As one prisoner, Dwaine Little says in the film, “I’m not a bad man.†.   Maybe now that they have something positive to hold on to they will find more peace within themselves.   They are not bad men because they have done something
Image of Dwaine Little of 7,500 Miles to Redemption
I wish this could be a form of rehabilitation for prisoners, but unfortunately forcing this upon people will not lead to a change.   These men found something special in their own hearts, that couldn’t be forced.
Image of So Kasal from 7,500 Miles to Redemption
After the showing I felt inspired to do my part.   Surely if an inmate can pay $20 (more than the average monthly salary for inmates lucky enough to have a job in prison), I can cough up $20 myself.   I purchased the DVD, which I’m sure I’ll lend to others.   Omori sells the DVD on the website for $20.   I think it’s safe to say that money raised through the sales of the DVD are a direct reaction to the very special thing these men have done.   So buying this DVD will help more than just one group of people.   You can also donate directly through the Village School Foundation website.

On a scale of 1 – 5, I would give 7,500 Miles to Redemption a 4.25.

[tags]7,500 miles to redemption, village school fondation, tinh mahoney, emiko omori, ashland film festival, aiff, vietnam[/tags]


  1. […] The movie Fair Trade was playing along with 7,500 Miles to Redemption at the Ashland Film Festival and is the third documentary I saw at the festival.   The Fair Trade movie is directed by Lauralee Farrer and follows the life of Tamara Johnston, a young women with a promising future who suffers the loss of her long time friend and boyfriend to a auto accident. Feeling the pressure of the stress, and facing the reality of a life without the person she loved, Tamara falls into a deep depression that results in a pact with god.   “I’ll give you 5 years, and if you show me a life worth living I’ll go on.”   Tamara decides to make some changes in her life and quits her job with Dreamworks to go into business with her twin sister and brother in law.   Their business, Anti-Bodies will not be focused solely on profits, but rather on the concept of Fair Trade. […]

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