“Russia’s Toughest Prisons” (2011)

Russia’s Toughest Prisons is an American TV documentary directed by Anna Rodzinski and distributed on Netflix, which plunges the spectator into three different prisons in Russia. And not just any old prisons but specifically the worst ones, where the most « dangerous » criminals are enclosed. There are violent men, killers even… cannibals.

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A scene from the movie, which shows a prisoner convicted of cannibalism, became famous and a viral hit on the net, with nearly 5 million views on Youtube. In this scene, the inmate explains – smiling – that he killed a man, that he cut up his cadaver into many pieces, that he cooked them and… offered a piece to his friends claiming that it was kangaroo meat (gulp!).

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For the first time camera crews were allowed inside these prisons. The images are impressive, they show isolated places that we cannot imagine in the middle of Siberia. But the only interest of this film is its footage, because it offers no real reflexion about the subject. Russia’s Toughest Prisons is an opportunistic, sensational and complacent movie.

Even if the prisoners portrayed in this documentary have done horribly things, it is horrible to imagine that several humans spend their life and die in prisons of this kind, that they live in a tiny cell, and that they have to be tied and escorted by four or five guards to walk some minutes in open air. Okay, most of them have killed people, but they haven’t become superhuman or monsters because of that.

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Moreover, the film shows the effectiveness of the administration, and focuses only on the crimes of the prisoners, with a lot of sordid details… Of course, we are not fools, and we know how hard prison is especially in countries like Russia. The documentary does not approach guard’s abuses or mental health’s prisoners. Russia’s Toughest Prisons is a propaganda promoting Russia’s prisons effectiveness…

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Russia’s Toughest Prisons (2011)
Director: Anna Rodzinski
Writer: Anna Rodzinski
Running time: 45min
Genre: Documentary

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