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Lion's Den (Leonera)

The surprisingly uplifting Argentine movie Lion

Julia wakes up, bloody and covered in cuts, the furniture in her flat up-ended around her, but she showers and goes to work. When she returns that evening she sees her flatmates, naked, bruised, bloody. She calls the police. One of them is dead and she is charged with his murder. Stripped and searched in prison, we see that she’s pregnant.

It’s a fast, furious, grittily realistic opening, which then slows to the pace of Julia’s life inside. She’s sullen, depressed, dark-eyed, hollow cheeked, but fortunate to be in the maternity wing, where prisoners and their children can mix freely. There is an extraordinarily powerful sense of reality – it was shot in an existing prison, with many of the inmates and guards taking roles – while we observe the developing real-life pregnancy of Martina Gusman, who plays Julia.

Trapero is clear about the inadequacies of the Argentine judicial and prison systems, but this isn’t the focus. Instead he looks at the culture of this small community. He gets inside Julia’s head, showing life in the moment, and how, through the women’s solidarity, Julia learns about love and finds a sense of purpose. It’s graphic, but never exploitative, thoroughly convincing, and surprisingly uplifting!


New Internationalist issue 431 magazine cover This article is from the April 2010 issue of New Internationalist.
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