The crimes that first put Mark Defriest in prison 34 years ago were petty and nonviolent, but his time behind bars has been anything but. While struggling to survive in one of Florida’s most dangerous prisons, he has been raped, abused, shot and spent 27 years in solitary confinement.

In The Life and Mind of Mark Defriest, which will be screened at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center in Vineyard Haven on Sunday, July 27, filmmaker Gabriel London tells Mr. Defriest’s life story, and gives insights into the prisoner’s mind. The film begins with Mr. DeFriest’s childhood, using animation to illustrate critical events, and follows him through his life today. Mr. Defriest is also known as Houdini for his multiple attempted jail breaks.

Although five of six court-appointed psychiatrists determined that Mr. DeFriest would be better suited to serve time in a mental institution, the testimony of the sixth doctor led him to prison. The film explores Mr. DeFriest’s time behind bars, and the many issues facing American prisoners.

“For audiences that are watching this, one of the great things is that it markets this imaginative and brilliant character who brings that mind into the prison world,” said Mr. London. “What we’ve done through animation and storytelling is brought excitement and entertainment to what could be a really heavy topic. The audience can look forward to some entertainment and a wild ride, but the film will also give a better understanding of many of the current issues that are tied up with these cases.”

After the screening on Sunday, the audience is encouraged to stay for a panel discussion featuring Alan Dershowitz, Judge Mark Wolf and Dr. James Gilligan. The panel will address prisoner rights issues that are illustrated in the film.

“These are the great minds of law and criminal justice right now in their fields,” said Mr. London. “I feel really privileged that they would use my story and my film as a jumping off point to discuss these issues.”