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Press

 

Eschewing sentimentality, the elegantly crafted Alone in Four Walls is documentary filmmaking of the highest order. Austere, yet undeniably powerful, Westmeier’s heart- wrenching film literally rises in song, becoming a poignant ode to a lost generation of Russian youth.

David Courier / Sundance Filmfestival

 

I was blown away, with some restraint appropriate to the material, by Alone In Four Walls.

Alexandra Westmeier's shockingly beautiful and shockingly apolitical documentary about a juvenile hall in Russia. The film really feels like a Kubrick documentary. The images are so stark, and well framed, and powerful. The steady hand behind the camera is Westmeier's husband and co-producer, Inigo. And he proves once again the power of a human face and a simple steady frame.

David Poland "The Hot Blog" Movie City News

 

Alexandra Westmeier's beautifully shot German docu "Alone in Four Walls" provides a nonjudgmental snapshot of Russian youth at one not-uncommon current extreme -- in a boys' reform school. Quietly involving pic lands somewhere between social plea and minimalist, aestheticized slice of institutional life. It's an attractive fest item that should pick up some sales to artscasters and pubcasters.

Variety Festival Review

 

Breathtakingly shot with a painter’s eye for color and composition, Westmeier’s film allows these boys a freedom of expression like they have never had nor probably will ever get again.

Goethe Institute New York

 

„Die Leistung der Regisseurin ist es, vom Schicksal der Heimkinder in großen Kinobildern zu erzählen. Kino meint hier, dass dem Zuschauer keine Welt erklärt wird. Er kann sich vielmehr selbst ein Bild machen, politische und gesellschaftliche Zusammenhänge erkennen. Sicher im Umgang mit ihren filmischen Mitteln bildet die Regisseurin – eindringlich und zugleich diskret - nicht nur Realitäten ab, sondern gestaltet sie auch.“

Filmpreis des saarländischen Ministerpräsidenten/Max Ophüls Festival

 

Handsomely photographed – and delivered in an almost uncomfortably dispassionate tone – this documentary follows the lives of a handful of Russian boys, all under the age of 14, who are serving terms in a detention centre for crimes ranging from theft to murder. Stark, beautiful imagery, of floors being scrubbed and beds being made with military precision by some of the young inmates – as emotionally challenging as it is visually arresting – is counter-balanced by the views of those affected by their crimes. Glimpses of the boys’ home lives, as evidenced by interviews with parents, hint at why some of the boys seem relatively content within their four prison walls, and interviews with the boys themselves reveal the confused children behind the harsh machismo they have been forced to adopt.

Cambridge Film Festival

 

Alone in four Walls, which screened last night at the Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival, is an unusual issue-oriented documentary, because it refrains from bludgeoning the audience with its righteous.

Artfully filmed by Westmeier’s cinematographer husband Inigo, Alone focuses exclusively on the children of this facility, giving the supervising adults only incidental screen time. As we first meet the charges, they explain for the camera their starter-prison tattoos. However, as they tell their stories, they do not seem to be bad kids. Although the film begins with a scared new arrival distraught because he was not allowed to say goodbye to his mother, most of the residents have clearly adapted well to their new environment. After all, it offers them things they did not have at home: namely structure and regular meals.

In a rare turn of events, the Westmeier’s post-screening Q&A was actually illuminating. The director explained the seemingly disproportionate sentences for pilfering food were often handed down as a way to get the children out of a dangerous situation, giving them a chance to finish school. While it might speak well of Russia’s juvenile justice system, it is a pretty damning indictment of the country’s overall social support system.

Westmeier’s approach works because she resists the urge to explicitly tell viewers what they should think about it all. Whether you fully share Westmeier’s sympathies for the children or not, Alone certainly takes viewers to a remote corner of Russian they have never seen before.

Margaret Mead Film Festival at the American Museum of Natural History in New York

 

We admire the compassion with which the author Alexandra Westmeier reveals the 
painful experiences of the young boys who suffer isolation. With her suggestive 
authorial style, the author creates an unforgetable closeness that generates a sincere 
interest in the lives of the unfortunate youngsters. 

International Documentary Filmfestival ZagrebDox 2009

 

A beautifully shot and utterly compelling look at life in a Russian reform school.

Jenny Leask / Edinburgh International Film Festival