26.2 To Life
Year Released: 2023
Runtime: 1h 30m
Director(s): Christine Yoo
Where To Watch: Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Friday, February 10th at 1 pm and Saturday, February 11th at 10:20 am at the Fiesta 5 Theatres. For more information, visit sanquentinmarathon.com
RAVING REVIEW: 26.2 TO LIFE is a captivating film that takes you on a journey through the world of San Quentin State Prison, uncovering the lives of those within its walls. The film explores the 1000 Mile Club, a running group of inmates who veteran marathon runner and head coach Frank Ruona lead. With 78 marathons and 38 ultra-marathons under his belt, Frank is a revered figure in the club, serving as a mentor for the members.
For the inmates, the annual marathon offers a chance to escape their daily reality, even if only for a moment. The film delves into the members' lives, showcasing their triumphs and struggles and their stories of hope and personal growth and giving a back story to those who may not have always been in the right place at the right time.
Markelle, one of the club members, is the embodiment of these inmates' harsh realities. Through running, he finds solace and renewed hope for his upcoming parole hearing in light of the recent criminal justice reform movement. Another central figure in the film is Tommy Wickerd, a former gang member who has found a sense of brotherhood and personal growth through running, despite the toll his 57-year sentence has taken on his family, particularly his wife Marion and son. Despite facing obstacles due to leg braces, Rahsaan Thomas refuses to let his limitations define him. During his sentence, he finds his voice and becomes a successful writer, podcaster, and filmmaker.
The 1000 Mile Club extends beyond the prison walls, with Frank supporting the members upon re-entry into society. The film ends with a story of inspiration, Markelle's incredible story, as he overcomes obstacles and defies the odds against him.
The film, shot inside the prison, offers a rare, intimate glimpse into the lives of the inmates. The San Quentin administration granted the film team unprecedented access, proudly showcasing the impact of community engagement on rehabilitation. The director, Yoo, has stated that this film is not a PR piece for San Quentin but rather a genuine, authentic representation of the world within its walls.
There’s no better feeling than rooting for someone in a documentary, especially when part of the world wishes they be forgotten.
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[photo courtesy of JONATH MATHEW/SAN QUENTIN MARATHON, LLC]