HotHouse

Granted unprecedented access to Israel's high-security lockups, Romanian/Israeli filmmaker Shimon Dotan and his crew reveal how these units function as institutes of political education, not only galvanizing the prisoners' Palestinian nationalism, but also grooming them for leadership. Scenes of everyday prison life are interspersed with montages of inmates dispassionately reciting their crimes, including deadly bombing operations. The blunt interviews with unrepentant men and women are chilling, but Dotan retains an evenhanded respect for the inmates' self-discipline, single-mindedness, and humanity, as evidenced in his quiet observation of the daily business of incarceration: letter writing, family visits, prayer, and getting better television reception. Filmed in the year running up to the surprise victory of Hamas in the parliamentary elections of 2006, HotHouse makes it clear that the Israeli criminal justice system inadvertently strengthens Palestinian political life even as it attempts to undermine it. Winner of the 2007 Sundance Special Jury Prize.

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