Chess. It features in so many prison films, and I’m never sure if it hearkens back to a time before TVs were allowed in prisons and prisoners were assiduous chess players, or whether it is just filmmakers’ code - a lazy shorthand way of telling the audience that this person is a master strategist. That said, only a week or so ago I visited a juvenile prison where several young Aboriginal boys were huddled around a chess board, and another giant chess set adorned the yard; maybe it’s making a comeback. In any event, there’s no chess played here, in this film. (more…)
Posted on May 14th, 2018 at 8:58 pm. Updated on May 14th, 2018 at 9:08 pm.
This is the first Cambodian film (let alone prison movie) I’ve seen, so this is unfamiliar territory and ‘jailbreak’ might have a different meaning to a Cambodian audience. The prisoners here riot, are liberated from their cells, kill each other, kill guards, cause mayhem… but don’t break out of the jail, unless I missed something. I’m prepared to accept that something got lost in translation. (more…)
Posted on April 25th, 2018 at 11:27 am. Updated on April 25th, 2018 at 11:27 am.
The 2008 Pakistani movie Ramchand Pakistani told the story of a Pakistani man who strayed across the Indian border chasing after his wilful son, and who was then captured, imprisoned and tortured by Indian authorities. Sarbjit tells the story of a wilfully drunken Indian man who strays across the Pakistani border and is captured, imprisoned and tortured by Pakistani authorities. For 22 years. (more…)
Posted on April 11th, 2018 at 9:26 pm. Updated on April 11th, 2018 at 9:26 pm.
As far as low budget horror films go, this one by the Quiroz Brothers is not so bad. As far as low budget death row horror films go, it is not about a death row, per se, and the term ‘horror’ doesn’t exactly fit, either. But it is decidedly, indisputably, inescapably low budget. (more…)
Posted on February 18th, 2018 at 12:37 pm. Updated on February 18th, 2018 at 12:41 pm.
The Najayo Prison for men at San Cristóbal, about an hour out of Santo Domingo, is right next door to the Najayo Women’s Center of Correction and Rehabilitation. So close that the men in the old prison, if they can get to a high window on the upper storey, can pass messages to the women next door, and vice versa, by an elaborate, bespoke sign language. ‘Woodpecking’, they call it. “The thing is that when the woodpeckers drill their holes they grasp onto the tree - the same way that the guys climb to the windows and grab onto the rails so they can talk to us,” one of the women says. Or you can choose to make up your own explanation.
Posted on January 28th, 2018 at 11:18 am. Updated on January 28th, 2018 at 11:18 am.
Shot Caller might be one of those rare films that I enjoyed in spite of itself. Or myself. (more…)
Posted on December 14th, 2017 at 8:53 pm. Updated on December 14th, 2017 at 8:53 pm.
For starters, I’m not sure why this horror movie is called The Chair. Yes, there is an electric chair, but it doesn’t make an appearance until the last few minutes of the film, and it doesn’t even loom large over the preceding action. It’s a little like calling The Shawshank Redemption ‘The Beach.’ (more…)
Posted on November 25th, 2017 at 9:13 pm. Updated on November 25th, 2017 at 9:13 pm.
‘Bespredel’ in Russian would seem to mean ‘lawlessness’… but also ‘limitless’ or ‘anything goes’. “What is [bespredel]?” the prison’s top bespredelshchik and string-puller, The Prince, is asked. “[Bespredel] is a trap,” he replies. I hope that helps. (more…)
Posted on November 6th, 2017 at 9:13 pm. Updated on November 7th, 2017 at 4:35 pm.
Pixote: A Lei do Mais Fraco (’the law of the weakest’) is celebrated for (or rather enjoys a reputation for) its unrelenting grimness. And for good reason. If you looked in the dictionary and it said: grĭm a. harsh, joyless, pixotish - you probably wouldn’t baulk… provided that you didn’t know that Pixote is sometimes translated as PeeWee, which doesn’t sound quite so grim.
Posted on October 5th, 2017 at 8:19 pm. Updated on October 5th, 2017 at 8:19 pm.
There is much that is familiar in The Prison. It owes a good deal to The Guys from Paradise (2000) and On the Job (2013) - both films about prisoners sneaking out of prison to commit major crimes, and then sneaking back in with perfect alibis - yet it somehow manages to be very much its own film. It features a cop and a kingpin. And copious amounts of corruption. (more…)
Posted on September 5th, 2017 at 10:18 pm. Updated on September 5th, 2017 at 10:18 pm.