A Hard Name

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A Hard Name
Directed by Alan Zweig
Produced by Kristina McLaughlin
Michael McMahon
Cinematography Alan Zweig
Edited by Randy Zimmer
Release date
  • May 3, 2009 (2009-05-03) (Hotdocs Film Festival)
Running time
100 minutes
Country Canada
Language English

A Hard Name is a 2009 documentary film by Alan Zweig that explores the lives of ex-convicts.[1]

In the film, Zweig interviews seven ex-convicts about their times in prison and their lives on the outside.[2] The men talk about insights they have gained about their lives, including how childhood abuse led to a life of crime. Film subjects include one man who stabbed fellow inmate Clifford Olson 21 times, before Olson committed his serial killings.[3]

Another of the film's subjects was abused as a child while a resident at the Mount Cashel Orphanage in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. A Hard Name ends with archival television footage of him performing, playing the guitar and singing for other young residents of the home.[4]

Zweig admitted to be intimidated about doing these interviews:

"[...] Intimidated, I guess. Less by their danger and more by a male competitive thing, in a way…they’re going to see through me. They’re going to see that if I went to jail, I’d be an easy mark. I’m not as tough as them. I haven’t survived what they’ve survived and they’re just going to dismiss me as a weak citizen.”

However, the ex-convicts interviewed were surprisingly open to Zweig and allowed themselves to be shown as vulnerable.[2]


A Hard Name premiered May 3, 2009 at the Royal Cinema in Toronto.[2] The film received the Genie Award for best feature-length documentary.[1] It was also chosen as one of the top ten audience favourites at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.[5]


  1. ^ a b "Hot Docs turns focus on 2 Toronto directors". CBC News. 18 January 2011. Retrieved 12 February 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c Papamarko, Sofi (29 April 2009). "Behind Alan Zweig’s A Hard Name". E! Entertainment Television. Retrieved 14 February 2011. 
  3. ^ Sumi, Glenn (2 December 2009). "A Hard Name". Now. 29 (14). Toronto. Retrieved 14 February 2011. 
  4. ^ Barnard, Linda (4 December 2009). "A Hard Name: Ex-convicts out of jail but far from free". Toronto Star. Retrieved 28 April 2011. 
  5. ^ Driscoll, Angie. "Focus on Alan Zweig: Hot Docs 2011 Guide". Now. Archived from the original on 5 May 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2011. 

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