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ON THE YARD

USA, 1978 (MIFF 1979)

Director: Raphael D. Silver

Raphael D. Silver is the husband of Joan Micklin Silver, who directed Hester Street and Bernice Bobs Her Hair (shown in the 1977 Festival), and produced On the Yard. It is his first film as a director.

The story interweaves the situations of a number of prisoners doing time in a state penitentiary. Chilly is the top man, organising the various operations managed by the inmates. His right-hand men are Red, Nunn and Gasoline Morris, Chilly's errand boy, spends every night sewing an escape balloon — more a dream than a possible means of getting out.

Juleson, chief clerk in the job department, remains outside the activities of the others, until his supply of cigarettes runs out and he goes to Chilly. With the prison officials bearing down on him, and his rival Tate gaining more power, Chilly pressures Juleson to give Nunn a job. He refuses, and is beaten up by Gasolino, who is shot by a warden.

Chilly uses the psychopathic Stick, who is urging Morris to complete his balloon, to get back at Juleson.

During fight night, Stick attempts to fly over the wall in the balloon. In the ensuing struggle with other prisoners, his place is taken by Red, and it seems as if one of the inmates may have finally realised the dream of escape . . .

On the Yard was filmed with actual prisoners and officials in many minor roles. The author of the screenplay, Malcolm Brafy, spent twenty years in jail.

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