Nick Read: The Condemned

Filmen vises i morgen tirsdag den 30. september på DR2’s Dokumania kl. 20.45. Den kan stærkt anbefales. Den danske titel er forklarende, ”Ruslands værste fængsel”, en direkte oversættelse af originaltitlen ville være ”De fordømte”. Her følger en kort anmeldelse på engelsk, da filmen har haft og vil have et bredt internationalt liv.

You can choose to make a film about life in a Russian prison by picking one character as did Alexander Gutman years ago with his ”17 August”, a masterpiece, or you can do like Nick Read, director and cameraman – put the focus on a gallery of inmates (and one guard) and have them talk about what it means to be locked up, for most of them, for lifetime for the murders they have committed. (In 1996 death penalty was  not practised any longer).

The cinematography and editing of the film creates a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere with a strong sound score of doors being locked, keys put into the keyhole, with voice-off’s of Maxim, Vladimir, Temirov, Albert, Sergei – whatever their names are. They talk well, they regret, not all of them, they put words on what it means to be in a 5m2 cell and very rarely see the light of the day. They are given the opportunity to express themselves.

The film is informative. It tells about the difference in the prison – in sitting alone and being with others. It lets the man who has been locked up for 40 years of his 62 year life describe the rules that the older inmates set up to avoid trouble and fighting. The hierarchy is outlined, those lowest are the rapist and pedophiles.

Two times the film leaves the prison (260 men, 800 murders, situated far away from everything in a forest big as Germany…) to accompany the wife and son of one of the inmates, as well as a mother for the short visits (3-4 hours) they are allowed to have. They meet their husband/father/son and the camera catches some small emotional moments before it retracts to let them have privacy.

An honest work, away from the many tabloid prison films that are just looking for trouble. A quote: It’s not hard to kill a man, it’s hard to live with it.

UK/Russia, 80 mins., 2013

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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