Carandiru Prison in Sao Paulo, the biggest and most infamous penitentiary in Latin America and the scene of repeated uprisings and bloodshed, was closed down in the fall of 2002. The story of the bloody 1992 massacre there is told movingly in Hector Babenco's Carandiru, also screening at the Festival. A year before this notorious house of detention was shuttered for good, some inmates were given video cameras to record their daily lives inside. The result is this film. Perhaps as a result of their TV literacy, the inmates' images are almost undistinguishable from those of the filmmaker. More than an attempt to search for new ways to build images, the film poses a radicalization of the ongoing polyphonic experiment between fiction and documentary in Brazil. The Prisoner of the Iron Bars confronts reality with a freshness rarely seen before -- imploding, so to speak, the final months of the prison. As with Babenco's epic, Sacramento's film posits the prison as metaphor for Brazilian society, but what matters here is that throughout the film the prisoners are shown talking to each other, without clichés, trying to whisper a dream, a dream of all the excluded to cross to the other side of the wall.
Director's Statement Collapse
Our film is an attempt to break with the traditional interviewer-interviewee pact, in which the former are entirely responsible for the developement of a film's thesis. During the seven-month shoot, there was a constant exchange of views between film crew and prisoners. This was the case not only with the inmates chosen to participate in a video course we offered inside the prison, but also with most of the other [7,500] prisoners as well, dependent as we were on their cooperation...[to make the film]. Such was the degree of mutual accptance that we reached the point where we could walk alone inside the prison, without any escort, and film the everyday life of the institution without restrictions.