Carolyn Talks…With Directors Nance Ackerman and Ariella Pahlke

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Image courtesy of Nance Ackerman and Bianca Mercer from Conviction.

Prior to the start of the FIN: Atlantic International Film Festival, Carolyn had the opportunity to speak with directors Nance Ackerman and Ariella Phalke about their new documentary Conviction, which screened as a Gala Presentation at the festival on September 16, 2019.

Drug Addiction, abuse, mental illness, fear and lack of resources are just some of the contributing factors that lead to thousands of women – predominantly from marginalized communities- to being incarcerated. In the documentary the women are completely open about their struggles with life outside of prison, and within it’s concrete walls.

In Conviction, three Nova Scotia directors Ackerman, Pahlke, and Teresa MacInnes, collaborate with women on the inside, Bianca Mercer, Treena Smith, Laura Toney, Caitlin Hill, as well as prison guard, Tanya Bignell, to imagine what they would have needed in their lives to avoid incarceration. They paint, draw, sing, photograph and film, envisioning a more ideal world, authoring their own narratives through art. They join advocates and Senator Kim Pate in a worldwide movement questioning the ideas of punishment and prison.

By giving the camera over to the women, the directors give them the power to tell their stories from their perspectives. We’re allowed to see them in their most physically and emotionally vulnerable moments. Instead of being casual observers, viewers are party to their most innermost thoughts, as they share their hopes and fears for what their future could hold.

What Conviction reveals beyond the prison walls, is that these women’s lives are a reflection of the state of our society. They show how a lack of resources creates an ever-revolving cycle of women leaving prison, but returning when they have no one to offer services like proper counseling and housing.


Conviction was written and directed by Nance Ackerman, Ariella Pahlke, and Teresa MacInnes, and produced by Teresa MacInnes from Sea to Sea Productions and Annette Clarke (The Boxing Girls of Kabul, Love, Scott, Theater of Life) for the NFB’s Quebec and Atlantic Studio in Halifax. Conviction was produced in association with Documentary Channel, with the participation of Canada Media Fund, SRC and with the assistance of the NS Production Incentive & the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit.

For more information about Conviction and the project visit, and @ConvictionDoc on Twitter and Instagram.

About The Directors

Nance Ackerman: I have been creating stories through imagery for a very long time.  My work tends to explore social issues, strength, humanity and women.  This project has kept me up at night, made me cry, laugh, feel hopeless, hopeful and inspired…all at once. It has been an honour.

Ariella Pahlke: I’ve collaborated with groups, institutions, and individuals on various forms of media art and documentary projects for 25 years, challenging the status quo through art and community activism. I’m deeply grateful to the women in Conviction who continue to provoke us all to wonder why things are the way they are.

Teresa MacInnes: I have been making documentary films for 30 years and am passionate about telling stories that confront social justice and inequality. As Conviction screens in communities across Canada, I am inspired by the hope and compassion shown by all those involved with this film.