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Prisoner of the Iron Bars (2003)

O Prisioneiro da Grade de Ferro (original title)
Documentary about Carandiru Penitentiary, with scenes filmed by the prisoners themselves.


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In 2002, the greatest prison in Latin America, Complex Carandiru, was demolished. With a population of about 7,000 prisoners distributed in nine pavilions of five floors, this prison became known worldwide after the famous massacre of one hundred and eleven prisoners in 1992. A couple of months before its implosion, director Paulo Sacramento trained some inmates and together with his crew, they produced many hours of footage, showing the daily life in prison. Their internal rules, punishment, entertainment, weapons, death, drugs, booze, life conditions, food, sexual life, religion, creeds, families, hopes and dreams are exposed and disclosed along 123 minutes running time of documentary. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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16 April 2004 (Brazil)  »

Also Known As:

Fylakismenos sta sidera  »

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A powerful documentary about teh biggest prision of Latin-America
22 April 2004 | by (Sp, Brazil) – See all my reviews

The Prisional System Professor F. Favero, aka Detention House, aka Carandiru, or Carandiru Complex was going to be demolished in 2002. Then started a national rush to cover as much as possible of this incredible (on the bad side) place.

Carandiru Complex was made of 9 pavillions, each one with 5 floors, where no guards/wardens could enter and go up. Made to receive about 4,000 inmates, it once held 9,000, and by the time of the demolition had 7,000. The building was falling apart.

Famous by the massacre of 1992 (111 inmates executed), nicely portrait by Babenco's 2003 movie(Carandiru), the documentary is a compilation of more than 170 hours of footage recorded by the inmates themselves, who were given 20 DV cameras and a video workshop.

How can you control 7,000 people (killers, drug-dealers, robbers, stealers, rapists, transvestites, innocents maybe) with almost no money and less than hundred wardens? The inmates had their own rules, and the simple one: you do something wrong, you die. This is how they could make people, who had once break the rules, to obey rules. And it is an incredible environmet: transvestites, crack, marijuana, bosses, evangelics, etc..., all in the same place.

The documentary is slow at times, but it never gets out of a trilling pace. The inmates tried to focus on dreams and hope, instead of murders and past stories. Of course the camera work is at times shaky, and confusing, but the editor perfectly could arrange the 170 hours in 2, getting the "best" of Carandiru.

To everyone that is completely bored of happy-ending blockbusters movie. It is not a depressing movie at all, but you will never get a happy ending. Watch it!

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