Girls on the Wall: The True Story of a Lockdown Musical (educational)

  • Directed by: Heather Ross
  • Produced by: Heather Ross
Released: 2011
Running Time: 62 min

The teenage girls of Warrenville Prison get a shot at redemption in a most unlikely form: a musical based on their lives. As three fascinating girls write and stage their play, they're compelled to re-live their crimes, reclaim their humanity and take a first step toward breaking free of the prison system. Meet Whitney (17), intimidating, self-loathing, and infamous for a crime she won't talk about. Rosa (17) who was released from Warrenville, only to return weeks later after getting nearly killed in a knife fight. Christina (18) was drawn into street life by her mother's crack habit; she's spent most of her life in jails and foster placements. When she gets a chance for adoption by a wealthy Christian family, she jumps at it-- but can't reconcile her new upper-middle class life with her loyalty to her mother's world. When the girls hit the stage in front of their families, prison staff and utter strangers, hitting the notes isn't important: it's their chance to seize their stories and tell them to the world. For some, the musical will be a first step in a back-and-forth struggle to stay out of the system. Given unprecedented access to this juvenile correctional facility by the State of Illinois, the powerful characters of GIRLS ON THE WALL will surprise you with their candor, intimacy, and unexpected sense of humor. Together, they illustrate the power of storytelling to illuminate the darkest secrets, and to understand the most tangled lives.

CLICK HERE to read Collective Eye's interview with Director & Producer Heather Ross


  • 2010 Emmy, Best Documentary of Current Significance, NATAS Midwest 
  • Best Documentary, Bermuda Int'l Film Festival
  • Silver Chicago Award, Chicago Int'l Film Festival
  • 2012 Fledgling Fund Award Recipient, Audience Engagement Grant


    "Nothing short of powerful." LA Times • "It's strong stuff." 
    - Philadelphia Inquirer

    "You become a witness to inner change, and that change is initiated by the act of storytelling. An excellent film."
    - Huffington Post

    "An amazing documentary." Time Out Chicago • "How can you not be inspired?" 
    - Philadelphia City Paper

    "Paints an unforgettable portrait detailing the empowerment to be found in self-expression... One of the more stirring works you will see all year." 
    -Anchorage Press

    – WBEZ Chicago Public Radio

    "Highly recommended" 
    – Video Librarian VOL27