» Le fidèle / Racer and the Jailbird (2017, Belgium and others)

Racer and the Jailbird - Matthias Schoenaerts as Gino ('Gigi') Vanoirbeek

I’m not sure now why I thought that this might be a prison movie. The title, maybe. The French title (’the faithful’) is sober and apposite. The English title has a different tone altogether - wacky, almost, or whimsical. To be clear: it’s not a prison movie, barely managing a few minutes of prison time, and it’s neither wacky nor whimsical. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on May 12th, 2019 at 10:58 am. Updated on May 12th, 2019 at 10:58 am.

» Now Barabbas Was a Robber (1949, UK)

Now Barabbas Was a Robber - Stephen Murray as the Padre and Richard Greene as Dick Tufnell

It’s Good Friday as I’m writing this… and pondering, fittingly, the allusion to Barabbas in the title. What can it mean? One thread of the film concerns a man who has mightily affronted the authorities, and whose non-judgmental love for a prostitute has ‘healed’ her. A little familiar, you might think. But there’s no guilty rogue spared here while an innocent man goes to his death; the man awaiting execution is very much guilty (of the premeditated murder of a policeman), and none of those who walk free, or go unpunished, are of Barabbas’s ilk… and nor do they pave the way for the other man’s execution. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on April 30th, 2019 at 3:15 pm. Updated on May 1st, 2019 at 6:48 pm.

» El patio de mi cárcel / My Prison Yard (2008, Spain)

My Prison Yard - Violeta Pérez as Rosa and Verónica Echegui as Isa

I watched this film with, I’m sorry to say, less than perfect comprehension… after the failure of several pathetic attempts to find good English subtitles. I was a little bemused to subsequently find a reference in one review to a duck in the prison, which I thought I’d missed, only to learn that it resulted from the translation of the mistranscribed ‘El pato de mi cárcel’. Sadly, outside of English I am always finding ducks or missing them (whichever is wrong).  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on March 19th, 2019 at 8:43 pm. Updated on March 19th, 2019 at 8:43 pm.

» Asura (2015, India)

Asura - Ravi Verma as Chandrasekhar (aka Charlie) and Nara Rohit as Dharma Teja

Think of any one of the thousands of shoot-first-ask-questions-later-type cops who are constantly at odds with their superiors for going outside the rules and dispensing rough justice. Then imagine that same cop wanting more than anything to write poetry. Or, when that cop happens to be a prison Jailor and has single-handedly recaptured (with transactional violence) eight of his prisoners who have escaped, him saying of them, “Living inside four walls is not enough (for them) to become good. They should be living amongst good people, but they can’t find any good people here.” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on March 11th, 2019 at 11:14 am. Updated on March 11th, 2019 at 11:18 am.

» Anime perse / The Jail: The Women’s Hell (2006, Italy)

The Jail: The Women's Hell - Yvette Yzon as Jennifer Estrada, making a gruesome discovery

Somehow, this film slipped past the gatekeeper. But if I ever wanted to remind myself why I avoid exploitative Women in Prison movies, this would do the trick. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on February 25th, 2019 at 8:54 pm. Updated on February 25th, 2019 at 9:01 pm.

» Krotkaya / A Gentle Creature (2017, Russia / France and others)

A Gentle Creature - Visilina Makovtseva as the gentle creature

I knew this wasn’t a fair dinkum prison movie, but I thought it might contain some interesting observations about prisons; I’d read that it was about a woman in a small Russian village whose parcel sent to her imprisoned husband is returned without any explanation, and she sets out to learn why: a prison conspiracy, perhaps? It transpires that her cheerless search for the truth provides a very dark commentary on life in Russia, and a bit, but not so much, about prison. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on February 20th, 2019 at 7:23 pm. Updated on February 20th, 2019 at 7:23 pm.

» 死亡監獄 / The Jail of No Return (1994, Hong Kong)

The Jail of No Return - Little Blackness on the bamboo bed

At first blush, this is a wacky story of an island prison somewhere in Asia, ruled by a maniacal American, and featuring much creative brutality and some innovative implements of torture; the sort of film to which adolescents might be attracted.  It was a bit of a surprise to learn later that it is based on a true story from the 1960s: that of the experimental penal colony Pulau Senang, just off the coast of Singapore, and the riot which led to its closure.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on February 15th, 2019 at 8:45 pm. Updated on February 20th, 2019 at 7:06 pm.

» Heartlock (2018, USA)

Heartlock - Lesley-Ann Brandt as Tera Sharpe and Alexander Dreymon as Lee Haze

Downing a Duck‘, one prisoner’s written account of how to cultivate and manipulate a correctional officer to breach prison security, has seemingly been used worldwide as a training tool for new officers. Heartlock is pretty much its filmic equivalent. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on February 9th, 2019 at 7:38 pm. Updated on February 9th, 2019 at 7:38 pm.

» Joshila (1973, India)

Joshila - Dev Anand (holding rifle) as Amar Kumar, and to his left, in his dressing gown, is Manmohan Krishan as the Jailor

Many of the synopses of this film suggest that it is about a poetry-loving jailor’s daughter who falls in love with a prisoner. It’s not. Shalini (Hema Malini) has a classmate whose father is the Jailor of Delhi’s Central Jail, and she spends a holiday with her friend, living inside the jail. The Jailor (Manmohan Krishan) allows her to roam freely around the jail, and in the quarry where the prisoners work, unaccompanied… and it’s there that she meets Amar Kumar (Dev Anand), an electrical engineer with a taste for poetry. And falls for him. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on January 28th, 2019 at 4:59 pm. Updated on January 28th, 2019 at 4:59 pm.

» La noche de 12 años / A Twelve-Year Night (2018, Uruguay and others)

A Twelve-Year Night -

The Variety interviewer tosses director Álvaro Brechner a helpful prompt: “It’s not a prison movie…” “No, it’s not,” he agrees. “Two things are always present in a prison movie: the intent of escape; the recreation of a micro-society within the penitentiary. None of this happens here. It’s a film about descent into the depths of inner hell.” Señor Brechner and I might differ on what constitutes a prison movie, but I can see why he would see it as a film about descent into the depths of inner hell. Indeed, it would be a show of rudeness (and folly, really) to contradict him on what his film is about, but I reckon it’s even more about survival and resilience. And triumph.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on January 23rd, 2019 at 8:44 pm. Updated on January 23rd, 2019 at 8:52 pm.