Newly imprisoned, Malik el Dejebana (Tahar Rahim), a 19-year old small-time criminal of Algerian descent, is an easy target for the white-haired Corsican mobster César Luciani, one of the prison’s established rulers, who orders him to kill another inmate if he doesn’t want to be killed himself.
It is the beginning of a ruthless education for Malik, but he learns quickly and soon rises through the prison’s intricate, partly ethnically defined hierarchies. Epic in its scale and gripping at every minute, the film pulls us into a complex parallel world where we want Malik to survive but also fear for his soul. A realistic critique of prisons, it is also a reflection on the corrosive effect and volatility of power.
We're pleased to be joined by screenwriter Thomas Bidegain for a talk after the film, hosted by Peter Straughan.