Winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlinale, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani’s Caesar Must Die deftly melds narrative and documentary in a transcendently powerful drama-within-a-drama. The film was made in Rome’s Rebibbia Prison, where the prisoners are preparing to stage Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. After a competitive casting process, the roles are eventually allocated, and the prisoners begin exploring the text, finding in its tale of fraternity, power and betrayal parallels to their own lives and stories. Hardened criminals, many with links to organised crime, these actors find great motivation in performing the play. As we witness the rehearsals, beautifully photographed in various nooks and crannies within the prison, we see the inmates also work through their own conflicts, both internal and between each other.

The Tavianis (Padre Padrone) break the boundary between reality and fiction in startling ways – amongst the inmates, they insert an actor who was once a prisoner himself; some of the conversations are ad-libbed, others carefully scripted – and the result is thoughtful, engaging and a triumphant celebration of art’s ability to impact lives.

Sydney Film Festival