Screencap from Tribeca award winner, ‘Dog Pound’ by Kim Chapiron
by Sam Juliano
Kim Chapiron’s raw and unsparing prison drama Dog Pound, copped one of the Tribeca Film Festival’s major awards earlier this week as the 9th Annual Gotham independent movie celebration wound down to it’s Sunday conclusion. While this unremittingly bleak and vivid tale of pent up rage and beaurocratic incompetance may not be a reinvention of the genre that recently gave us Jacques Audiard’s Un Prophete and Steve McQueen’s Hunger, it is nonetheless a film that will engender disgust and outrage, as its predessesors did. Chapiron, a French director who helmed a rather unique and creative American backwoods-styled horror film Sheitan in 2006, infused his uncompromising drama with a visual astringency, and stark, cinema-verite style realism with brilliant set and sound design that takes you within the drab and claustrophic walls and barbed barriers of the Montana juvenile correctional facility that serves as the film’s sole setting.
Making his English-language debut here, the gifted Chapiron has a remarkably keen eye for juvenile life and the ever-lurking dangers that inform every waking minute in an environment wrought with mistrust, betrayal and excessive violence. In the tradition of films like I Am A Fugitive From a Chain, Gang One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, A Clockwork Orange, and The Shawshank Redemption, the director again examines the grave internal issues of the youthful inmates, and the inability and ineptitude of those in charge to address the critical reverberations that follow some shocking miscalculations and errors in judgement that lead to tragedy. Alan Clarke’s Scum is the single work that Chapiron seems most indepted to here, as both films show the wardens and officers as brutalized by the system, both show case a male rape scene that leads to suicide, and both show no real effort at rehibilitation. Chapiron suggests later in the film that the ‘dog pound’ ensnares everyone in its grasp, accentuating the rather indiscriminate regard for punishment. Even the film’s imposing officer, Goodyear (Lawrence Bayne) has deep-rooted insecurities which are manifested in a prickly vaneer and some glaring insecurities. Beyond him, the administrative officers are close-minded and arrogant, and even a female instructor displays callous indifference to a boy with a big personality. (more…)