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Can we escape our inner turmoils? Giancarlo aches to goes back to the prison cells that nurtured him, but the cost of his return could be too dear - Italo-Ukrainian film premieres at the Official Competition of the 26th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival


Giancarlo enjoys prison. He can’t imagine his life without prison, as he’s spent most of his life in prison. And suddenly he’s released into a foster home, where he spends his time masquerading as some sort of freak. Indeed, prison serves as some sort of escape for the child, so he decides to become a prison officer as an adult, only to find that the sanctity of a cell is as intangible as any other outlet.

Jailbird does not subscribe to everyday pigeonholing. Indeed, it’s quite unlike anything released this decade, and it’s difficult to say with certainty where this particular film stands. It’s too dense to be a comedy, too esoteric to be a drama and too sedate to be a thriller. What it is is European, centering on a selection of Ukrainian and Italian artists, each of them decorating the screen. Adriano Tardiolo is an immersive lead, caught in the middle of his spiritual odyssey. In one of the film’s more delicate moments, he sees a kindred spirit in Jesus Christ, and spends his time gawping at the figure. Caught in the intensity of the Crucifix, Giancarlo realises that his life isn’t too dissimilar to that of the Messiah’s. All that differs are the wounds which are afflicted on the two.

The film asks more questions than it answers, but the queries are pertinent. Indeed, all throughout the film I asked myself what it is to be human, and what it means to be free. The film also demonstrates man’s ability to change within his immediate environment, whether it’s an effort to kowtow to the rigors and expectations of what is around them, or placating life experience for instant recognition.

Whether this film will resonate with mainstream audiences or not remains to be seen, but there’s no denying that this is a very good script, cemented by a convincing and committed lead performances. Every frame brings with it a character searching for their personal liberation, a freedom that is hidden behind the darkness of their eyes. Scintilatingly directed, and presented with great earnestness, the film demonstrates an eagerness to unlock the uncertainties that exist within us.

No, it doesn’t entirely succeed, but it makes a decent stab at it, curating a work that moves along with almost poetic ease. The film earns its ninety minute runtime, weaving in and out of the treatise that no one is free from their cell, no matter how much they wish to escape. And for Giancarlo, a return to prison is less of a vacation, and more of a return to…Well, prison, really.

Jailbird is showing in the Official Competition of the 26th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.

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