Screening Inspiration

From Documentary Film Festivals to Prison


  • Carole Roy St. Francis Xavier University
  • Lindsay McVicar St. Francis Xavier University



Documentary films, Film Festivals, Prison, Informal learning


Documentaries and film festivals embody in a concrete way Paulo Freire’s pedagogy of indignation, of denouncing injustice while also announcing possibilities. This article examines a study on the learning potential of documentary films for nine incarcerated women in a carceral setting who participated in a documentary film and discussion series. The impetus for this project came from a larger study of three documentary film festivals rooted in community development, activism, and social change. Like many attendees at these festivals, participants suggested that they gained information and new perspectives on themselves, others, and social issues. They reported being inspired by stories of adversity and appreciated the films as a form of informal learning. This article also discusses the unique challenges of adapting film showings to a carceral setting, including logistics and access, participant selection, and film selection.

Author Biographies

Carole Roy, St. Francis Xavier University

Dr. Carole Roy is Professor in the Department of Adult Education at St. Francis Xavier University, Canada. Her research interests include women’s collective acts of resistance, documentary film festivals, and the role of the arts in adult learning and in movements for social change. Since 2005, she has organized annual documentary film festivals until Covid (2020) and looks forward to re-engaging with public film screenings in the near future. She volunteered to show documentaries in carceral settings a few times per year for 7 years.  She has published numerous articles as well as books, The Raging Grannies: Wild Hats, Cheeky Songs, and Witty Actions for a Better World (2004), Documentary Film Festivals: Transformative Learning, Community Building, and Solidarity (2016), and co-edited Working the Margins of Community-based Adult Learning: The Power of Arts-making in Finding Voice and Creating Conditions for Seeing/listening (2016). 

Lindsay McVicar, St. Francis Xavier University

Lindsay McVicar is an organizational change management professional who does teaching and research in the areas of adult education and organizational change. She is an activist in reproductive justice for women and gender diverse people and sits on the board of a local non-profit organization supporting individuals who have experienced criminalization in the perinatal period in carceral institutions and the community.  She has 15 years of experience working in project and change leadership in the public sector and holds a Master’s in Adult Education.




How to Cite

Roy, Carole, and Lindsay McVicar. 2023. “Screening Inspiration: From Documentary Film Festivals to Prison”. Journal of Festive Studies 4 (1):101-15.