3 Stars
Year Released: 2006
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 90 minutes
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Anyone who’s seen Michael Winterbottom’s “The Road to Guantanamo” will gladly agree after watching the documentary “Hot House” that it’s better to be caught as a Palestinian terrorist in Israel than be mistakenly detained as one by the U.S. government. The movie, directed by Shimon Dotan, reveals a prison system that acts more as a organizational center for crime than a location of meaningful reform.

Whether you agree or disagree with Israel’s policies, it’s hard to argue against the imprisonment of the inmates, all but one of whom admits to involvement in terrorist attacks that killed innocent civilians. But they see themselves as victims of the unjust occupation of their land, and hold no regrets for the deaths they caused.

Dotan gets deep into the heart of the prison system, intimate enough with the inmates for them to speak frankly about their imprisonment in interviews and converse with one another. However, there is only so much the criminals are going to reveal on camera, and topics already covered rise again. The film’s visual rhythm also becomes a little stale as the film progresses.

As they spend time reading and developing a better education than they had outside of prison, the prisoners become a bit more savvy to political maneuvering and negotiations. They follow the Palestinian parliament elections and discuss the results. The prisons even have their own hierarchies and elections among different factions—a system the wardens found makes riots and breakouts less likely.

There’s a lot of powerful footage in the film, revealing the startling simplicity with which many of the prisoners view their actions. When asked if she knows how many children died in a suicide bombing she helped execute, a woman guesses too low. After being told the real number, she silently looks at the camera, unwilling to remove the smile on her face. It’s a chilling scene to see in a prison full of like-minded individuals who don’t feel compelled to change their ways.

Posted on January 22, 2007 in Reviews by

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