Love Jamie

Love, Jamie (Review) – Outfest 2023


Love, Jamie is screening at Outfest Los Angeles on Sunday, July 16 at 11:00am at the Director’s Guild of America, Theatre 1 and is playing in the Shorts Program: Is This The Real Life, Is This Just Fantasy?


Gabriel met Jamie via letter in 2013 when volunteering with Black and Pink, a prison abolitionist group that advocates for LGBTQI + people and people living with HIV/AIDS. Gabriel was immediately struck by the elaborate, colourful artwork and inner strength found in Jamie’s letters from a Texas prison, and it wasn’t long before a bond developed, with the walls dividing them melting away through art, conversation, love, and mutual support. Karla Murthy’s short documentary, Love, Jamie, is a beautiful and inspiring snapshot of a friendship born through prose, conversation and art that celebrates strength, transformation, pride, and artistic freedom.



Neil Gaiman once said, “Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art”. Life can often change in a heartbeat, sometimes for good and sometimes for bad, with our anticipated path suddenly disrupted. How we deal with those challenges often shows our true soul.

Art in all its forms, whether written, played, drawn, danced, performed, painted, or sculpted, can transcend the difficulties we face, the pain we keep locked away or the walls that pen us in. Jamie’s art isn’t just a reflection of her journey as a trans woman in a Texas state prison; it’s a healing process, a therapeutic journey and a defiant call for equality, freedom, and hope.    

Jamie’s love of art shone from a young age as she defined her style through self-teaching. But in 1996, her world would change forever as she was sentenced to life due to a drug addiction that led to an aggravated robbery. Jamie was placed in a prison environment that felt alien to her inner gender, a men’s prison where her emerging trans identity put her at significant risk of harm. This environment was as far from her artistic inner world as you can get, so Jamie let that inner world out, creating numerous artworks full of colour, pride, humour, emotion, and feeling. Using basic paints and brushes and a whole lot of improvisation, Jamie would build an extensive collection of artwork based on themes of equality, diversity, freedom, and beauty.



As Gabriel and Jamie’s friendship developed through prose and discussion, Gabriel was determined to ensure Jamie’s art found an audience outside the prison walls. Love, Jamie is the story of Gabriel and Jamie’s bond as her artwork found a new home in a Manhattan gallery. Karla Murthy allows Gabriel and Jamie’s stories to sit centre stage, as Gabriel discusses the importance of their bond on camera while Jamie shares her feelings via telephone. The intimacy of these conversations speaks directly to the trans experience in modern America while illuminating the power of letter writing and discussion, which some may argue is a disappearing art form. Equally stunning are reflections on the role of art in breaking down walls and creating communities of shared experience where we can learn from each other and share our diverse journeys in safety.

But Jamie’s experiences also address a deep concern within the criminal justice system, which affects all countries; how do we ensure the safety of trans prisoners in an estate built on biological gender divides? There are no simple answers to this question, but maybe Jamie’s experiences and art can help us find a solution.   

Jamie is eligible for parole in 2025 after 30 years of confinement, and her extensive artwork catalogue can be viewed here.   


DONNA

  • Love, Jamie | United States | 2023
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Summary

Karla Murthy’s short documentary, Love, Jamie, is a beautiful and inspiring snapshot of a friendship born through prose, conversation and art that celebrates strength, transformation, pride and artistic freedom.

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