Albert Woodfox has a very interesting story. He spent 43 years locked up in solitary confinement for a murder he maintains he had nothing to do with. That story could be coming to cinemas soon, with Mahershala Ali voicing interest in the lead role.
Deadline announced that Fox Searchlight was making a deal to pick up the rights to Solitary, the memoir that Albert Woodfox wrote about his time in solitary confinement while incarcerated in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. At the time of his release in 2016, Woodfox had served 43 years in a 6-by-9 foot cell.
Originally arrested for armed robbery at the dawn of the 1970’s, Woodfox escaped custody and made his way to Harlem. There, he became familiar with the Black Panther Party. He was eventually captured and sent to the Angola prison in 1971, were he continued to strive for the education and betterment of his fellow prisoners through the philosophies of the Black Panther movement.
Angola prison was a pretty brutal institution, and Woodfox, along with fellow inmates Herman Wallace and Robert King, were targeted by the prison’s administration for leading their fellow inmates in hunger strikes and other protests.
In 1972, a prison guard was burned to death, and another guard died from multiple stab wounds. Woodfox and Wallace were convicted of murdering the stabbed guard, although there had been no evidence linking either man to the murder.
Woodfox, Wallace, and King ended up spending decades in solitary confinement, locked for 23 hours each day in their tiny cells without any contact with the outside world. Once per day, each man was allowed 1 hour of time in an enclosed exercise yard, but was still not allowed human contact.
King was released after 29 years after accepting a plea deal in 2001. Wallace was released in 2013 after Amnesty International intervened on his behalf, and he died soon after from terminal liver cancer.
Woodfox’s conviction was overturned in 2014, and he was released in 2015. He accepted lesser charges of burglary and manslaughter, which he still maintains he was innocent of, but decided not to contest the charges due to his advancing age and health issues.
Collectively, King, Wallace, and Woodfox were known as the “Angola Three“, and their stories have led to conversations about the ethical ramifications of solitary confinement, a practice that has been denounced for being inhumane.
Woodfox went on to write his memoir, which is titled Solitary: Unbroken by Four Decades In Solitary Confinement, My Story of Transformation and Hope. He was also awarded $90,000 in reparation by the state of Louisiana for cruel and unusual punishment.
Mahershala Ali is already on-board as an executive producer on the film, and has every intention of playing Woodfox. Anyone who watched the last season of True Detective knows how well Ali can play the same character over a long span of time, so this will be another powerhouse performance for sure.
We’ll have more on Solitary as this story develops!