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Hot Docs 2014 Review: The Life and Mind of Mark DeFriest

The Life and Mind of Mark DeFriest, tells the story of enigmatic prisoner Mark DeFriest, his undeniable genius, the unbelievably harsh Florida penal system and what it means to survive without hope. DeFriest was a naive 19 year-old when his stepmother called the police on him. His father had recently died and DeFriest knew that his tools were willed to him. He collected those tools being totally unaware of the law of Probate. For this “crime” of taking what was essentially already his, DeFriest was sentenced to four years in prison.

At this present moment he is serving a life sentence. Through DeFriest’s own words, animation and letters to his current wife we piece together his history. DeFriest is famous for his escape attempts (earning him the nickname “Houdini”) and these attempts are what added time to that initial four year sentence. Reports state that he destroyed a cell in five minutes using nothing but a toothbrush, tore himself out of a straight jacket, destroyed leg irons. DeFriest was also a master at constructing a working gun out of seemingly anything and could memorize then replicate prison keys just by seeing them hanging from the belt of a guard.

As impressive as his feats are DeFriest is also a victim of the Florida Penal System and corrupt prison guards referred to as “The Goon Squad” who mercilessly beat and even kill prisoners. The Life and Mind of Mark DeFriest, gives us DeFriest the mad genius and DeFriest the broken man.

[star v=5]