2000 Academy Award Nominee – Best Documentary Short
This follow-up to the 1998 Oscar nominated doc “The Farm: Angola USA” tells the only story that couldn’t be included in the original Angola documentary. Every Sunday in October, the Louisiana State Penitentiary hosts one of America’s most unusual events. Amateur inmate cowboys risk their lives to participate in this dangerous sport in front of five thousand cheering locals. Is this modern-day Roman Circus, or the one time in the year that these convicts have the chance to prove their courage? Directed by Simeon Soffer, and produced by Soffer and Gabriel Films’ Jonathan Stack (producer and director of “The Farm”).
Best known for his Academy Award Nominated documentary “The Wildest Show in the South” Simeon Soffer has a rich past as a director/producer and an even more promising future. Starting his journey at NYC’s Vocational High School of Art and Design, Soffer began directing short films in his junior year and graduated with honors in filmmaking. He then went on to California Institute of the Arts and studied film under Jules Engel and went on to win the JVC Student Video Award. After college he entered the film business and quickly joined the growing field of music videos, opening his own production company, and directing over a hundred music videos, and concert films for a vast spectrum of artists, mainstream and avantgarde. Soffer then joined forces with Gabriel Films and began directing documentaries.
His first documentary which he shot in 16mm, “Rodeo Bullfighter” was immediately picked up by The Discovery Channel and gained high ratings for it’s look into the world of rodeo bullfighters. This film led him to the Angola Prison Rodeo in Louisiana, where he was introduced to the importance of using his skills to address social issues in his films. Garnering an Academy Award nomination, the International Documentary Association Award, and an official Sundance Selection got Soffer the funding to bring forth his latest effort “Fight To the Max”. The film is an opus on the Prison Boxing Championships, told through the eyes of a former inmate who fought his way out of the system, and is now the IBF heavyweight champion.
He always shoots his own films in 16mm and continues to work with Gabriel Films as his production company. Soffer works out of Los Angeles now, and has his own post production studio. He attributes his current success to the spirit and determination that he’s witnessed in the subjects of his films who must overcome unfathomable odds to gain respect and redemption.