Wednesday, 25 June 2008

EIFF: Alone in Four Walls - Review by Marjorie Gallagher

Dir: Alexandra Westmeier
Running Time: 85 min

Alexandra Westmeier explores Russia’s answer to the asbo in her affecting documentary Alone in Four Walls. Casting a non-judgmental eye over an unnamed reform school housing boys as young as 10 for crimes as ludicrous as jam thievery and as severe as murder, Westmeier exposes a judicial hot potato: rehabilitation – can it be done and what’s the best way to go about it?Westmeier follows the boys on their daily routine: morning exercises, weigh-ins; school lessons. Never intrusive, she allows the boys to unload to the camera, without interruption, giving the film the feel of a confessional. There is something to be said about the power of a human face and a steady camera. What will become of these boys? If the closing statement is anything to go by, that 91% of them will end up in jail, the future looks bleak. Nevertheless this is a touching portrayal of disaffected youths whose faces linger in the mind long after the lights go up.

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