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A Hard Straight

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A gang member, a mother, and a small-time dealer. They served their sentences, they're on parole. Now they're about to discover that walking out the prison gates is just the beginning. A Hard Straight is a documentary about doing time on the outside. A Hard Straight tells the story of what it is really like for a person to make the radical transition from prison life to society. The film interweaves the stories of two men and one woman as they begin to construct new lives on the outside. We see them from the ecstatic moment of their first taste of freedom, to the inevitable frustrations, joys, and banality of life outside of prison. And finally, we see the people in either a successfully established life on the outside or a return to prison. For the 500,000 men and women each year who are released from prison, there are many unknowns: What will you have to do to survive after walking out with $200 gate money? How does an extended stay in a world defined by violence and subjugation affect your ability to live your own life? And what sort of resources, both within the community and yourself, will you need to have to make it on the outside? A Hard Straight is an powerful, intimate, and enlightenting film that sheds light on the profound experience of doing time and trying to go straight.


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Goro Toshima's "A Hard Straight" offers an up-close look at the temptations and frustrations faced by three parolees as they grapple with challenges of life in the outside world after long prison terms. The film imposes arresting dramatic structure on day-to-day struggles of its characters, and remains scrupulously even-handed while questioning how much each ex-convict is responsible for his or her own plight.
Joe Leydon

a riveting new documentary by first-time filmmaker Goro ToshimaThe three homecoming stories he documents are even more timely now; U.S. prisons will release a record 650,000 people this year. Within three years, 40 percent will be back in prison. Academics, politicians, and government officials have long struggled with the question of why. Toshima, who shadowed his subjects for two years, has created an honest and intimate film packed with much needed answers.
Jennifer Gonnerman
Village Voice

One of the highlights of the documentary competition Wisely allowing his subjects voices to tell their own tales, Toshima still manages to inject a definite directorial intelligence throughout this pained, persuasive work. Shooting interviewees on stark white or black backgrounds to foreground their increasing isolation, juxtaposing moments of bravado with scenes of quiet desperation, he accomplishes the difficult task of not only showcasing the lives of those caught in ever-shrinking circles, but the flaws in a system that builds, and keeps, such traps.
Jason Sanders
Filmmaker Magazine

Goro Toshimas dispiriting documentary follows three parolees from the California penal gulag as they rejoin a world of temptations armed only with $200 in gate money and a sliver of optimism.Toshima stingingly indicts this grotesque system particularly for slashing drug-rehab programs but simultaneously doesnt flinch from depicting the unjustified self-pity and pathetic rationalizations offered up by his helpless recidivists
J. Patterson
LA Weekly

Toshima aptly conveys the hypocrisy within the justice system and shows how easily rehabilitation can become recidivism. An immediate and intriguing glimpse into one of this country's most severe problems, A Hard Straight is enlightening and emotional. These people aren't just criminals; they're neighbors and relatives who have somehow been left behind.
Darcie Stevens
Austin Chronicle

  • National PBS Broadcast, "Independent Lens"
  • Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature, South by Southwest Film Festival
  • Best Documentary Feature, Santa Barbara International Film Festival
  • Official Selection, Chicago International Documentary Festival
  • Official Selection, IFP/Los Angeles International Film Festival

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