Is it a good thing, ultimately, that this whistle-blowing film seems a little tame? That the boot camp abuses suffered by the juvenile offenders in Hong Kong’s Sha Tsui Detention Centre don’t seem to be as shocking as those in many other prison movies (which is not to say that gratuitous elbow strikes, and asking a detainee to clean a toilet with his fingers and then clean his teeth with the same fingers, and assorted other beatings and demeanings are not abusive). It’s a good thing for Hong Kong, isn’t it, if Sha Tsui (which caters for juveniles and young adults from 14 to 25) is not as rotten as some other prisons. Somehow, though, the film seems a little pallid and limp. (more…)
Posted on October 20th, 2017 at 5:08 pm. Updated on October 20th, 2017 at 5:08 pm.
‘Locked up in a Turkish prison’ has been the most reliable shorthand description of the horror of being a foreigner locked up abroad (or of any worst imaginable horror, really), probably since Midnight Express (1978). But the ordeal of Briton Billy Moore in A Prayer Before Dawn might have a few people viewing Thai prisons as the new high water mark. Or low water mark.
Posted on August 12th, 2017 at 8:55 pm. Updated on August 12th, 2017 at 9:07 pm.
‘Distractedly’ is the English translation of this film’s French title. How does a prison director fall for a prisoner not much more than half his age? Distractedly, derangedly, stupidly. (more…)
Posted on May 10th, 2017 at 9:11 pm. Updated on May 10th, 2017 at 9:11 pm.
Chattahoochee. Is it a prison for mentally ill prisoners, or psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane? It’s a fine line, but if you’re looking for a prison movie, it’s the latter, I’m afraid. (more…)
Posted on April 25th, 2017 at 5:32 pm. Updated on April 25th, 2017 at 5:32 pm.
You might expect a range of helpful tips in a prison survival guide. In this slightly offbeat comedy-drama, it seems that there’s just one: buy your way out of trouble. (more…)
Posted on March 6th, 2017 at 4:40 pm. Updated on March 6th, 2017 at 4:40 pm.
This is a short (49-minute) but poignant portrait of a 16-year-old girl in a juvenile detention centre. Perhaps the first thing to note is that ‘vast’ in Dutch does not mean expansive, but rather ‘fixed’ or ’set’; the film deals with her inability to break away from the things that have formed her - to deal with them and attempt to move on. (more…)
Posted on December 16th, 2016 at 8:12 pm. Updated on December 16th, 2016 at 8:12 pm.
“I never realised how much I took freedom for granted until it was taken away.” So says ex-cop, ex-prisoner and narrator Gillian Kaites (Melanie Coll), explaining her lust for freedom. Don’t expect anything deeper. (more…)
Posted on November 1st, 2016 at 9:45 am. Updated on November 1st, 2016 at 11:02 am.
Director Claudio Giovannesi taught at the Casal del Marmo juvenile detention facility in Rome for a number of months in order to get a better appreciation of the centre and its inhabitants. It paid off. This is a finely observed, stripped down, silence-rich portrait of an incarcerated young woman, and of her budding romance with a young man who is held in the male section of the same facility.
Posted on October 4th, 2016 at 9:24 pm. Updated on October 4th, 2016 at 9:24 pm.
An odd, boring film. Oddly boring. On the basis of a number of reviewers bemoaning the lack of lesbian sex and shower scenes, I thought that this might be a women’s prison movie with something to say. It isn’t and doesn’t. It does, however, aim to educate, giving a helpful rundown on the prisoners’ day and explaining various aspects of prison life - such as that the reception process is known as ‘red fall’ because inmates used to wear red clothing, and that prison food is known as ‘Mossou chow’, a mossou being the bowl from which the food is eaten. These are useful pieces of information. But all this illumination is interrupted by several less edifying and rather tedious sex scenes where the gratuitous wearing of underwear and draped bedclothes adds substantially to the degree of difficulty. And very little else happens in the rest of the film. (more…)
Posted on June 18th, 2016 at 8:57 pm. Updated on June 26th, 2016 at 1:57 pm.
I’m not aware of any other psychology experiment that has spawned three films; I don’t think that poor Ivan Pavlov can boast even one movie, notwithstanding Pavlov’s Dog (2005). And I’m not sure why, after two perfectly sound movies in Das Experiment (2001) and The Experiment (2010), it was seen to be worthwhile to make yet another film based on Dr Philip Zimbardo’s famous 1971 experiment examining the psychology of prison - its impact on prisoners and guards. (more…)
Posted on March 28th, 2016 at 11:59 am. Updated on March 28th, 2016 at 11:59 am.