Short Eyes (1977)

ROBERT M. YOUNG

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.  USA, 1977.  Screenplay by , based on his play. Cinematography by Produced by , Music by .  Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by .

Miguel Pineyro’s Tony-nominated play, based on his own experiences behind bars, is adapted to the screen with solid results by Robert M. Young.  It takes place in a New York City jail where the population of predominantly black and Latino inmates can’t help noticing when white, middle-class is thrown into their midst and a on a much worse charge than what has placed them there.  The interpersonal politics of the convicts, delivered in a style that has since become a standard in depictions of this milieu, play out in an organic and unforced way that reaches a crescendo of moral crisis when it turns out that Davison was arrested for pedophilia and might get away with it.  The late Pineyro himself appears as one of the characters in this polished and powerful film, one that admirably led the way for many that followed (and Pineyro’s writing, for that matter, is considered by some to be the precursor to the musical genres of rap and hip-hop in the years to come).  Young, as always the filmmaker who concerns himself with the humanity of the disenfranchised, shows an admirable level of restraint in his lack of graphic imagery without draining the dramatic power of a story with no shortage of rough interactions.

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