New PBS Doc ‘Tre Maison Dason’ Explores Growing Up With An Incarcerated Parent

By Tiarra Mukherjee Apr 01, 2019

Denali Tiller’s new film, "Tre Maison Dasan," is an eye-opening look at the way children are punished for their parents’ crimes, an underexposed social disruption we ignore at our peril.


According to a report by The Sentencing Project, an estimated one in 14 American children is growing up with a parent in prison. "Tre Maison Dasan" follows three of these children and their families.

Produced and directed by Tiller, "Tre Maison Dasan" premieres on Independent Lens today (April 1) at 10 p.m. EDT. The documentary is already a favorite at film festivals and scheduled for nationwide screenings to coincide with National Visiting Days, a two-week film engagement that brings families together to watch the film through simultaneous watching events.

“Tre is a charismatic but troubled 13-year-old who hides his emotions behind a mask of tough talk and hard edges,” according to an emailed statement from PBS, while “Maison is a funny, charming, hyper-articulate 11-year-old whose Autism Spectrum Disorder presents itself through his ever-active mind and deep love for those around him. Dasan, the youngest of the boys, is a shy and sensitive six-year-old full of curiosity and empathy.”

Told through the perspective of these three Rhode Island boys, the riveting doc explores how each manages to navigate the pressures of growing up in a society that often demonizes their parents. While they feel socially isolated, the experiences of the three boys whose names are highlighted in the documentary’s title are far from unique. One out of every 14 children in the U.S. has a parent who is currently or has previously been incarcerated. In other words, a staggering 7 percent of our nation’s youth—an estimated 5 million children—have experienced the incarceration of a parent at one point in their lives.

"As ‘Tre, Maison and Dasan’ taught me about their worlds, I recognized that there was a need for a film that allowed children to speak for themselves, to elevate their voices in a way that fully represented their lives as they experience them,” says filmmaker Tiller, who in 2015, was named one of 110 “Filmmakers to Watch” by Variety. “Through this participatory process, the audience is led through the ups and downs of life itself—an experience that is both riveting and personal, hilarious and heartbreaking, and values the complexity and nuance of these boys’ different realities.”

Watch here.