Alone in Four Walls

Director: Alexandra Westmeier
Screenwriters: Alexandra Westmeier

Institute History

  • 2008 Sundance Film Festival


Adolescent boys struggle to grow up in a home for juvenile delinquents in rural Russia, where life behind bars may be better than the release to freedom. Filmmaker Alexandra Westmeier provides an intimate glimpse at a society from the inside out, where boys under the age of 14 are held for crimes ranging from theft to rape to multiple murders. They receive food and clothing. They go to school and engage in sports. For the first time in their young lives, they no longer have to fight for their daily existence; they can simply be what they are—children.

Like many of the boys here, Tolya, a murderer, recounts his crimes with unnerving nonchalance. Nonetheless, moments come through in each lad’s speech or mannerisms that reveal the child within the criminal. A 13-year-old newbie is not even allowed to say good-bye to his mother. He fights back tears that somehow reflect the sorrows of all his comrades.

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

Screening Details

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