The Odyssey Project is a full-length documentary that is currently in pre-production. Filming is scheduled to start spring 2014 and will be completed in the fall of the same year. Using the template of Homer’s Odyssey the film documents the transformational adventures of a group of eight incarcerated young men as they struggle to find their voices through a unique theater undertaking. The young men become heroes in their own life journeys in a quest to throw off stigmatizing labels and determine their destinies in spite of tremendous obstacles.

Film Synopsis (condensed)

Currently, in the United States, blacks, Latinos and Native Americans are incarcerated at a disproportionate rate. Black youth are five times more incarcerated than are whites; While, Latinos and American Indian youth are imprisoned two to three times more than their white peers.

In his Brother’s Keeper speech, President Obama recently observes a “cultural backdrop” of complacency where “we’ve become numb to these statistics. We’re not surprised by them. We take them as the norm. We assume this is an inevitable part of American life, instead of the outrage that it is”. The popular media narrative continues to define youthful criminal behavior in terms of deviancy and thus inherently worthy of penalty. However, The Odyssey Project seeks to challenge, contest, and destabilize this assumptive logic by illustrating a model of youth in a juvenile detention center reclaiming their voices and simultaneously re-inscribing a narrative of hope and liberation into their lives. The film will examine how theater arts along with an evolved Santa Barbara County rehabilitation effort takes the lead for positive change to offset the complacency described by the President. It reveals a cutting edge alliance between local government and a university to support positive outcomes for challenged youth.

The Odyssey Project will be centered on an outreach collaborative educational theater program between eight incarcerated 17-year-old males from a juvenile incarceration facility and undergraduate students from the Theater Department at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB). The film reveals a distinctive blending of privileged and non-privileged youth coming together, struggling with and overcoming their preconceptions to demonstrate how artistic cooperation transcends stigma, victimhood, class, and racial barriers.