We want to use the arts and different storytelling traditions to interrogate, transform, and spread new dignifying narratives fordebt justice.

ball and chain

Documentary Film

Shame On You!

Official Trailer

Shame On You! is a short animated documentary that plunges into the visual data presented at the Debt Collection Lab. In recreating several personal stories of people trapped in debt collection lawsuits, the film shows that it is because of hidden shame about debt that their stories are untold, which helps explain why 90% of the cases in the data are either unrepresented in courts or unopposed. The film exposes how the debt collection industry is enabled by shame as well as fear of the judicial system.

The film exposes how the debt collection industry is enabled by shame as well as fear of the judicial system.

The film premiered at its home campus of Princeton University in December 2023. Shame On You! was produced, directed, and edited by Jeffrey Himpele in the Anthropology VizE Lab at Princeton. It is based on extensive interviews and a script by investigative journalist Ann Neumann and features voice actresses Vivia Font, Dana Green, and Melody Butiu. The film was animated by Michael Arthur. Debt Collection Lab founder Frederick F. Wherry is the film’s executive director.

The entire film will be freely available here soon!

Festival Entries
Spark Computer Graphics Society
Los Angeles Animation Festival
Washington DC International Cinema Festival
Documentaries Without Borders International Film Festival
Best Shorts Competition
Ethnografilm
Best Shorts Competition
Spotlight on Academics Film Festival
Montreal Independent Film Festival
New Jersey International Film Festival
Boston Indie Film Festival
Chicago Indie Film Awards
New York Independent Cinema Awards
Seattle Film Festival
New Jersey Documentary Film Festival

Artwork

The Debt Collectors Series

The Debt Collectors Series tells the story of the debt industry and the lives it has impacted. In 2018 nearly 71 million US adults had a debt turned over to private debt collection. Among those who were taken to court, less than 10 percent had legal representation.

Drawing its inspiration from Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series (1940-1941), the paintings and their captions document the transformation of the debt industry, its alliance with the courts, and the day-to-day presence of debt collection in the lives of the truly disadvantaged. The Debt Collectors Series maintains Lawrence’s bold color patches, partially illuminated spaces, and explicit links to sociological, anthropological, legal, literary, and ethnographic sources.

The Debt Collectors Series was conceptualized by Frederick F. Wherry, the Townsend Martin, Class of 1917 Professor of Sociology at Princeton, and collaboratively re-envisioned with the artists Ari Riggins ‘23 and Rachel Mkraich ’21 and with the VizE Lab. As a part of the Debt Collection Lab, the Series is an open-ended endeavor that will recruit poets and other artists to add and to deepen the stories told.

Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series

See the full series