“One man. Two worlds. Three prisons.
Then. Now. Ancient. Modern.
Julius Caesar’s struggle against all odds
to become -- Caesar.”
StringCaesar is a feature film that tells the timeless story of an adolescence shaped
by social and political events. It charts a young man’s impassioned quest for power,
for the meaning of freedom and to know himself, to live his dreams, to achieve his
ambitions. The film explores his struggle to survive by becoming a power broker, a
manipulator and then a dictator --the genesis of a powerful man, with roots in politics,
violence, and gang warfare.
Our story plays out within the confines of some of the world’s most dire prisons with
acclaimed actors working alongside young men and women, some serving life without
parole, imprisoned for drugs, violence, and murder. The prisons are a microcosm of
the real world where drugs, sexual liaisons, gangs, deals, allegiances, fear, anger and
fleeting happiness are the order of the day.
This is the world where young Caesar fights for survival. This is Rome. A Prison.
Set in Pollsmoor Prison (Cape Town, South Africa), Cardiff Prison (Wales, UnitedKingdom)
and The Brotherhood Lodge, Drumheller Penitentiary (Alberta, Canada) this remarkable
historical story unfolds in a modern reality with relentless energy. It combines a remarkable
cast that includes Sir Derek Jacobi, John Kani, Alice Krige, Warren Adler, Grant Swanby,
Gunter Singer, Richard Clifford, prison officers and 500 prisoners.
The prisoner who becomes a dictator. The dictator who rules a cell.
This is Julius Caesar in the raw.
A Caesar you have never seen before.
In 1984 we received extraordinary permissions to explore the making of a feature film
around the early life of Julius Caesar in a prison with prisoners. To this end we were
sent to HMP Dartmoor – “the septic tank of the British prison system”.
About 18 months later the BFI, having seen the first script, funded us to write another.
We wrote two – STONE HOTEL and NONCE.The BFI then split down the middle but elected
to make NONCE by ex-para Michael Sambridge with the Caesar Writing Group.
When BFI announced we were making NONCE, the Lord in charge of the Prison Service
immediately shut the project down, refusing to allow it to move forward.
We visited Sir Richard Attenborough at his home, literally as he arrived back from
Attenbrough went to see the then Home secretary, Douglas Hurd, and telephoned us at
home the same day with the message: “Mission accomplished! Go back in and do your
work: make Caesar.”
The project was re-instated at Dartmoor but from that moment no money or support was
forthcoming from Britain.
We were guided by a Steering Committee comprized of prison officials and notables, including
John Mortimer and Merlin Rees. The Steering Committee advised us that if we did not make
the work, which the Prison service actually admired and wanted, the “good works” of English
prisons would go back twenty years. And that is exactly what happened!
Other filmmakers, understanding our plight, invited us to Canada and South Africa. Two Freedom
Fighters, Chris Austin and Rashid Lombard, who had been a committed part of the Struggle,
accompanied us to Pretoria to gain permission to make Caesar in Pollsmoor Prison. Rashid’s
wife had spent a long time in solitary in the neighbouring cell to Jenny Steuner who then headed
up the South African prison service.
JAIL CAESAR was eventually shot in Pollsmoor Prison, where Mandela had been held as a
prisoner, Cardiff Prison, Wales – the UK Prison System still completely supported us – and
Drumheller Penitentiary, Alberta Canada.
ArchBishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu gave his fullest support to the work and Nelson Mandela’s
grandson, Kweku, joined us as executive producer.
After it’s first screenings JAIL CAESAR was invited to the Raindance Film Festival, London,
where it was nominated Best UK Feature and received a two page spread in The Independent’.
After that it was pushed out of view in England, although it went on to win multiple awards at
festivals, enjoyed a three year run on Netflix USA and is still being sold world wide, including China.
We applaud the tremendous actors Sir Derek Jacobi, John Kani, Warren Adler and Richard Clifford
and all the wonderful actors who worked side by side, sharing sheets and cells, with long term
prisoners in South Africa under appalling conditions. We invite you to come and see the film – it’s
still not avaiable in the UK – and ask us and prison officers any questions you might have.
JC is Part I; STONE HOTEL and NONCE, parts II and III of the Dartmoor Trilogy, are on the launch pad.