DIGITAL CINEMA REPORT - MAKING JAIL CAESAR
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THE HOLLYWOOD NEWS TALKS TO ALICE & PAUL
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THE HOLLYWOOD NEWS - DEREK JACOBI in JAIL CAESAR
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CHRISTINA PATTERSON - THE INDEPENDENT
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THE READER, CHICAGO
REVIEW - by J.R. JONES
STRINGCAESAR - CRITICS CHOICE
StringCaesar South African filmmaker Paul Schoolman has dramatized the
formative years of Julius Caesar against the backdrop of three prisons (Pollsmoor,
Cape Town, Cardiff in Wales, and Drumheller in Alberta, Canada), giving some roles
to respected professionals (Derek Jacobi, John Kani, Alice Krige) but augmenting
them with a talented cast of hardened convicts. “Kill whom you wish to kill, rape whom
you wish to rape!” orders Jacobi, clad in orange jumpsuit as the Roman general Sulla,
and his words ring with authority amid the concrete walls of the Pollsmoor common room
where the scene is staged. Schoolman uses various narrative pointers - split screens,
captions in graffitti lettering - to surmount the challenge of telling a historical tale with
actors speaking various languages, but what really puts this across is his brilliant
governing conceit, which drives home the brutal politics of the Roman Republic.
In english and subtitled Xhosa and afrikaans. - J.R.Jones 91 minutes. Schoolan attends
all three screenings, joined at the second and third by Krige (his wife).
REVELATION PERTH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2013
A phenomenal work, Jail Caesar explores the story of the Emperor’s life, focusing on his
outsider years before he becomes supreme leader of the Roman Empire.
What makes the film unique is that it is told by a cast predominantly drawn from from three
prisons from across the world: Cape Town’s Pollsmoor in South Africa, Cardiff Prison,
Wales and the Brotherhood Lodge Penitentiary in Alberta, Canada. And the film never forgets the
location; the prisons are ever present in the film, not just in the cells and caged corridors but in
the constant background hum of voices and human noise.
The inmate (and occasionally warden) cast of these prisons are joined by a handful of
professional actors - Derek Jacobi, Alice krige, John Kani - but overwhelming emphasis is on
the group and the ensemble pieces are stunning. While other works have explored similar
areas, in Jail Caesar there is no emphasis on the creative process as therapy.
There is none of the amatuerism or workshop style acting that could adversely affect a
production like this - instead the film becomes a true tour de force. The actors emerging
from each prison handle the material with true raw understanding and force some
incredible performances from each other and the professionals with whom they are working.
The filmmakers deftly construct the material into a powerful whole, finding new
evocative depths in the story of the Roman dictator.
MOSCOW INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL REVIEWS
CYRIL RAZLOGOV about JAIL CAESAR in the ‘49 SEATS’ program
‘In ’49 SEATS’ program from time to time are discovered masterpieces
for audiences enjoying movies in all media - mainstream and festival theatrical
and TV releases - and seeking also the growth direction of film which may
lead to great achievements, or be forever gems of originality in the arts,
classics recalled with admiration.
The main sensation of this ’49 SEATS’ program will certainly be a movie
‘Ceasar with his own hands’, JAIL CAESAR by Paul Schoolman -
South Africa (with the participation of Great Britain and Canada) - the answer
to the Taviani Brithers film ‘Caesar must Die’, which won top prize in the
Berlin International Film Festival.
In the”49 SEATS’ program, three films attracted attention:
‘Caesar with his own Hands’ JAIL CAESAR is remarkable.
(It was made almost a year before the
Berlin film triumph of the Taviani ‘Caesar must Die’)
Julius Caesar was considered a waster, a degenerate and laughing
stock until he was 33 but went on to become one of the greatest leaders
the world has ever known. Writer/director Paul Schoolman took his
cameras into three of the world’s most notorious prisons – in Cardiff,
Canada & South Africa - engaging inmates as cast and crew, to tell the
dog-eat-dog tale of the youth who would be emperor, delivering a
Shakespearean inspired script peppered with ultra-modern
references, all in the violent setting of a South African prison
“run by gangs.”
Schoolman’s Caesar is a young guy “full of piss and vinegar” – he’s
like the actors; in a cutthroat world, all he has to do is survive and
he’s got it made. String theory proposes that there are many
universes, jostling alongside one another and sometimes they intermingle.
Prison is one universe; Rome is another, so is violence and so is love;
some prisoners are violent and some are victims - “but it’s all Rome.”
With respected thespians such as Derek Jacobi also working alongside
the inmates, the film itself is a vibrant meeting of many universes, a convincing,
thought-provoking and visceral collision of man’s instinct to survive.
Reviewed by Jean Lynch
Greg Atkins FACEBOOK message
after Revelation screening 7th July 2013
Hello Alice and Paul,
I was in the audience for Jail Caesar on Sunday July 7th at REV (Revelation Perth International Film Festival)
in Perth. Before the movie started Paul, you warned us that the first twenty five minutes would be
disorienting. I found the whole movie quite disorienting. And I’m happy with that. I go to REV every year for
the cinema experience that I’m not going to get anywhere else. Whatever my expectations were your movie thoroughly confounded them. I suppose I was expecting a sort of Shakespeare in modern dress. Did you deliberately pick Derek Jacobi for his Roman connection through I, Claudius? As I said (or tried to say) in the Q&A afterward, his performance as Sulla threw me off-balance. The vicious ranting tyrant in his orange
prison gear was a long way from the BBC’s stuttering emperor. A valuable lesson in the power of casting as misdirection! Likewise, I couldn’t divorce Alice’s Pirate King from her performance as the Borg Queen.
The cool feline menace was not on display, however when the Pirate King threatened the young
Caesar with a knife, a much more aggressive character. (Pirate KING, Borg Queen - what’s
with royalty, Alice?)
You were surprised by the silent response when the lights went up, but for my part it didn’t mean that I didn’t
like the film. I was just not prepared for what I’d just seen. Hearing you talk about it was helpful, especially
your comments on gang culture - specifically the reaction of the audience in Chicago. Fair to say that prhaps
not too many of your REV audience have a connection to the gang demographic.
But clearly Jail Caesar was as powerful for those who helped make it as those who have seen it.
If it’s given those prisoners a new view on their lives, and shown them new possibilities,
then you’ve really achieved something.
Thanks for a very powerful experience. I pick six movies every year from the REV program, and
I’m very happy to say that Jail Caesar was one of my picks for 2013. All the best for your future projects.
Regards, Greg Atkins
THE IRISH TIMES
Owen Dudley Edwards
“A brilliant re-evocation of Roman history from the last consulship of Marius to the first
Triumvirate, played by Blind Summit, and written and directed by Paul Schoolman. Juliius Caesar,
Queen of Bithynia is amusingly titled, but deeply concerned with war and politics and not at all with
titillation: its historical integrity is a standing rebuke to Robert Graves, and its
dramatic capacity remarkable.”
“ I must admit to being both involved and impressed by the ‘total theatre” of Blind summit. We all know about tyranny. We know about rape and murder and torture. Stalin, Hitler, Amin, Chile, South Vietnam, Korea. We
know about it. But to keep the realisation of its horror alive and awaken once more our recognition of the precious gift of freedom we need to experience at least a frisson of fear from time to time. I confess to a
desire to seek the safety of the exit in this show. The scenario is ancient Rome. Thug and Dictator follow each other in rapid succession. Licence and debauchery rule. The play deals with the early life of of Julius Caesar
who proved to be just another in a long line of nasties. Driven by enormous vanity and insatiable ambition
he is capable of any perfidy, any outrage. The power of this production is achieved by the enormous energy
and vitality of the company. They create the sensation that these horrors are taking place all around while we,
the audience, in the manner of everyman, everywhere, stand silently by.”
PROF LAURIE NATHAN
University of Pretoria
“String Caesar is a remarkable movie, shot inside prisons with inmates playing many of the lead roles.
This creates an implicit and fascinating dialogue between the story of a young Julius Caesar in ancient
times and the drama of incarceration in the 21st century. These stories are linked by common themes -
of human passion, of rivalry, enmity and friendship and of visceral and latent violence - that bridge the
gap between the different millennia.”
former Director of Prisons, Wales Former governor, HMP Dartmoor
For those of us with experience of prison, this shines a remarkable and very powerful light on life inside,
pointing up the parallels between the use and abuse of power in ancient Rome, prison today and
contemporary society. The quality of the acting from the serving prisoners is a triumph. Images from the film
remain with me long after seeing it.”
former governor of Cardiff International prison service consultant
"StringCaesar gives an insight into history within the context of a maximum security prison setting, complete
with all of the complex dynamics and prisoner sub - cultures. Although great professional actors give
remarkable performances in StringCaesar- the real stars of the film are the prisoners themselves as they tell
the story so convincingly. Compulsive viewing !!"
OFFICER OWEN JONES
The evening was a great success. The panel of the forum was composed of two ex-prisoners, Michael Sambridge and Tone Curran; an accomplished actor and director, Richard Clifford; former member of the SBS, now author and and crisis management consultant (pirates, terrorists and protection against such), Duncan Falconer; political journalist from The Independent, Christina Patterson and yours truly.
The subject heading was ‘Dis-respect, Blood on the Streets! A solution to Gang violence?’
Paul and Alice’s film, JAIL CAESAR, uses modern gang style relations to underscore it’s plot.
Sadly it wasn’t a good start for Christina who had just discovered that she had been the victim of identity theft! Duncan offered some comfort by disclosing that he had heard recently of an identity thief that had unwittingly stolen the ID of a wanted terrorist suspect. Whoops!
As the debate moved into how to establish relationships and talk to young people that thought themselves disenfranchised, Duncan related an extreme situation that he had found himself in whilst escorting CNN reporters in a hostile area.
Their vehicle had to stop at an impromtu roadblock manned by children of no more that twelve years old. The leader of whom is wearing a girl’s dress, has bulging bloodshot eyes due to the large marijuana cigarette he has in one hand, the other is fiddling with the pistol grip of an AK47. His ‘platoon’ are similarly equipped and all have zero accountability.
The answer was remarkably similar as to how to deal with a violent life sentenced G.O.O.D prisoner who has not long killed his cellmate, is very hacked off with you and is now ready to repeat the exercise for your personal benefit. Think quickly, speak slowly and move carefully!
The two ex-prisoners gave good measure of themselves, particularly Tone Curran who gave a physical, loud but eloquent and passionate account of his own experiences and solutions. ‘Sam’ openly confessed to taking amphetamines to experience the ‘highs’ of his army life as a young man in the sapper ( Royal Engineers) section of the Parachute regiment. Sam later gave an account of his having to descend into the sewers during a tour of N. IRELAND to deal with a large I.E.D.. On discovering the device it initiated its firing line but did not explode due to mechanical failure. Trouble followed such experiences and Sam ended up in the prison system. When out he had to befriend hostile gangs to source his ‘medication’.
Both men have been out of the system for some time now. Tone is a Writer and a Poet, Sam a recognized playwright, writer and a grandfather. His work has been performed and published.
Christina gave a coruscating, well informed, straight from the shoulder opinion and solution. Unbiassed despite her recent experience!
Richard during the communication point spoke of his involvement with a childrens charity in Israel, a football match between Israeli and Palestinian youngsters had been arranged and was going well until someone fired an assualt rocket into the middle of the pitch. Fortunately no one was killed but all the children were hustled into the bomb shelters without recourse to segregation. Though the languages were different, a sort of ‘facebook’ with notepaper stlyle of communication evolved as time went on. All soon realized that life was much the same for both parties. Needless to say, the future may look more hopeful for at least one group.
The debate covered many areas regarding gangs and respect or lack of it. It was absolutely fascinating, informative and, from a personal point of view, uplifting.
I was able to contribute due to my work with young offenders and violent prisoners under segregation at my previous establishment.
The audience came from all walks of life and parts of the world. A street musician, former US marine and ex-gang associate, gave fascinating insight into American gang culture, which our own is sadly starting to reflect.
A mother informed the forum of her young sons recent experience whilst travelling on public transport, a gang/group incident occurred on the bus that involved police attendance. The son, though not involved at all, even by association with the offenders was arrested and detained for some time. CCTV would later absolve him.
Realistic solutions to negate the call to ‘gang life’ were offered up. The main consensus of opinion was that initially the most effective would prove to be the cheapest ie, going over to, establishing a relationship with and talking to. Other suggestions were the return to the National Service, a type of it, or a scheme that worked in the style of the ‘Peace Officer’ system in America.
Despite the disparity of those present, ultimately, everyone was of the same mindset, how this was to be implemented provoked further debate but time was up. Interestingly there was scant criticism of the Prison Service and I doubt, given the forthright views expressed, that just my presence would have stopped anyone making a point.
After twenty five years in the job it is difficult to keep cynicism at bay but the evening was proof positive that there are serious, genuine and more to the point, very capable people that wish to assist in the rehabilitation of offenders at all levels.
“Prison saved my life”
HUNDREDS of UK PRISONERS
Head of security, B wWing, Pollsmoor prison Cape Town , South Africa
“This prison is ruled by gangs…cross an invisible line and they kill you. But working on
the film they’ve all been walking everywhere and not even thinking about it.”
PICTUREHOUSE TAKEONE : REVIEW
iFLICKS : REVIEW
INTERNATIONAL LIFE : REVIEW
BLONDONER : REVIEW