is the story of a modem Maximum Security Prison. It has been extensively researched and is firmly based on actual events that have occurred in prisons in America and Australia in recent years.
It is the first feature film of talented young filmmakers, Writer/Director John Hillcoat and Writer/Producer Evan English. It is the product of an 'aberration' in the film financing scenario in that English and Hillcoat exercise complete economic and creative control.
They elect not to pull a single punch.
The result is a film whose power has literally stunned audiences the world wide. It is an extremely tense, sometimes harrowing, drama that has a potent political intent.
Heinz Badewitz, Director, Hof Film Festival
"Brilliant film, brilliant filmmaking"
Bill Pense, Director, Telluride Film Festival
"A tour de force"
Andrew Urban, Melbourne "Age"
"The most powerful film ever made in Australia"
David Stratton, "Variety"
"Ambitious. confronting first feature"
It is to be presented officially for the first time at the Venice Film Festival in Critics Week and will make other selected Festival appearances before being released to the public in Europe in December 1988 and in America, Australia and Japan early in 1989.
"GHOSTS.. .Of The Civil Dead" flies right in the face of the prevailing political climate, a climate the filmmakers see as one of increasing and insidious repression. It is a daring and courageous first film, one of all too rare idealism.
"GHOSTS... Of The Civil Dead" is the story of Central Industrial Prison. Central Industrial sits in the middle of a desert. It is the highest level of security the prison system of our mythical country contains.
The film begins at the end. Central Industrial Prison has been "locked down" (meaning that a state of emergency has been declared and all inmates are indefinitely confined to their cells and all privileges have been withdrawn) "following the latest wave of violence that has plagued this institution for years:' A "Committee" has been appointed to report on its causes. The film, like the Committee, flashes back to trace the events that have led to the lockdown.
Three self-contained "housing units" representing the three levels of security in the prison, are the locations for the film. These housing units are triangular in design, are colour-coded in play school yellows and gentle bathroom violets. The inmates wear vivid blue and bright orange uniforms. Officers observe from Observation Booths and Control Rooms. This is a "New Generation" facility - "dedicated to the goal of humane containment:' It is New Generation facilities that are in 1988 being constructed by governments in the western world.
Inmate Wenzil 870411-112. is new to this prison. He is admitted to the supermarket-style, drugged-out 'prison paradise' that is the General Population unit. Within this unit inmates have freedom of movement. They watch a lot of TV, take a lot of drugs, and have a black market in food. sex. tattoos, drugs, electrical goods. They are totally submerged in junk culture. No one cares about the flaunting of the law because it keeps the environment relatively stable and without threat.
Correctional Officer David B. Yale 1633. works in Administrative Segregation. These "high risk" inmates have very limited movement. Inmates are taken once a day. one at a time, for an hour under heavy escort to recreation, and that's it. They sit in their cells the rest of the time and read and write and conspire. There is intelligence in this unit - a sense that these inmates are dangerous for different reasons. They hate the Guards and the Guards hate them; there is no collusion and no co-operation. Just an ever present sense of anger and tension, of war.
Inmate Glover 30281-160. is confined to the punishment unit, to Solitary Confinement. Inmates are sent here to learn to adjust to institutional life. Glover tells his story:
"I was 16 when they put me in prison.Emotionally I'm still 16.Prison is the only world I've ever known.All my dreams are dreams of violence."
Things begin to happen:
Inmates' personal property is destroyed. a cage to exercise is built, a screaming maniacal psycho (Maynard played by Nick Cave) is placed within the Administrative Segregation unit. Yale starts to realise: "It was like the Administration was trying to get something to happen. But I couldn't figure out why:' Yale becomes privy to the plot of deliberately provoking the inmates to create murder.
In General Population, the drug supply and the power to the prison televisions are suddenly and dramatically cut off. This former prison paradise gets nasty. Wenzil. who has had his eagerness to carve a niche in the prisoner hierarchy thoroughly exploited, sits alone in his cell. humbled. stewing, becoming progressively uglier and more hateful. We watch him turn into a killer.
In Administrative Segregation inmates kill an officer after prolonged harassment, in General Population they kill each other over drugs and TV.
"They wanted unfavourable publicity.They didn't care who got killed.They were fucking with everyone."
Yale is suspended from active duty for "spreading rumours:' A formerly docile inmate attacks and murders an Officer. Officers, under threat of their lives and believing their authority has been undermined. hang an inmate. Wenzil kills the first target he can find - the prison 'queen; Lilly. The prison is placed on lockdown status. The Television comes to report the 'facts'.
The film is about the fact that prison further criminalises its inhabitants. It is about the way in which the system. upon which our society is based. has the capacity to exploit events that should be an indictment of it. Further. it is about the fact that our system now deliberately creates those events in order to exploit them.
The Committee appointed to report. dismissing the evidence of former officer Yale, recommends that a new "super maximum" security prison immediately begin construction. A corridor painted pastel blue. We think that we are still within the walls of our modern prison, but we are not. This is the "free world" The free world looks like a prison and the prison world looks like a modern shopping complex. In the free world is Wenzil. Wenzil, known killer, has been released to fail.
G.O.T.C.D. is ultimately about methods of social control: Fear; Criminal; Research; Government; Drugs; Guards; Police; Military; Media. It is about the organisation of our society.