White Night is based on the short story Charlie Is Clean, written by an ex-convict. It is the true story of Shlomo, a first offender, who in prison ends up with a prisoner with far greater experience of the world of crime. Violence and penal ism are part of everyday reality. Questioning the existing hierarchy in the small prison world is to put one’s life at risk. It's a question of eat or be eaten. In this brutal world, Shlomo meets Charlie, a serious drug addict who enjoys a sort of boss-position amongst his cell mates. Shlomo, after winning Charlie's respect and trust, decides to help him become drug-free. An apparently hopeless task, having not only to cope with the ordeal of withdrawal; it becomes as much a fight against unsympathetic prison staff and scornful fellow prisoners. White Night is different from usual depictions of prison life. There is, of course, the macho talk and brutality, but the emphasis is placed on the relationship between these two diametrically different characters and their friendship which survives the toughest trials. Director Arnon Zadok, one of Israel's foremost actors, has in his first feature film realistically depicted an Israeli prison from within. He has also adopted the less than ingratiating role of the self-appointed gang leader with a taste for young boys. Zadok, who has a great deal of experience from the prison world (he has amongst other things produced plays and organized drama classes at various institutions) has succeeded in combining a brutal realism with a compact chamber play in claustrophobic surroundings. The dialogue is astonishingly minimal but full of substance. It is interesting to note that it is to a large extent based on actual conversations between real inmates in an existing prison. You can imagine this tale being told on a theatre stage, though this is not to say that the visual language is of secondary importance. The black and white grainy image quality and the occasionally very mobile camera strengthen the dark, cold and chaotic sections. White Night is despite its blackness a heart-warmer which shows that even a person with apparently all the odds against him can succeed. Not since Hector Babenco's The Loss of the Spider Woman (1985) have we seen a depiction of an unconditional friendship between two fellow prisoners so sensitively portrayed as in White Nights. LL

White Night
Arnon Zadok
90 min
Layla laban
Shalom Shmuelov, Sharon Alexander, Liora Rivlin
Arnon Zadok
Yoav Halevi
Arik Rudich

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