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  1. I picked up the movie Shot Caller at Redbox last night and was a little surprised to find that its subject matter relates to my current personal research interests: white nationalism and the indoctrination of normal white folk. You wouldn't know this from just the tagline "Some criminals are made in prison" or the brief synopsis: The synopsis failed to mention that the gang the protagonist gets caught up in is a white supremacist group, and the focus of the story is the gang's attempt to indoctrinate him and his attempt to resist while doing what he has to do to stay alive in prison and keep his family from harm outside. The movie doesn't deal too deeply with the intellectual side of indoctrination, though there is a little of that. For example, during a brutal gang initiation scene, the voiceover explains the prison philosophy: "The fact is we all started out as someone's little angel, and then a place like this forces us to become warriors or victims. Nothing in between can exist here. And you've chosen to be a warrior. Now it's up to you to remain one." Mostly the film shows how violence and threats are used to control gang members and break their will to be good and moral. It depicts high-security prison life where violent criminals are caged together and form tribes based on skin color. This, of course, they do for their own protection from being gang raped or killed as a lone wolf. Eventually the gang gains so much power through violence that it assumes a level of control even over some prison guards, who fear being harmed for not doing as the gang demands. The movie is cleverly shot in an actual prison using former gang members as extras. It is well-executed thematically. The main actor is amazing to watch as he goes through a terrible transition. The plot is darkly thoughtful and tragic, in a naturalistic Shakespearean sense. While the protagonist is no great moral hero, he does seek a sort of responsibility and redemption for his crimes. We get the sense that it's about an otherwise decent man trying to survive in absolute hell on Earth. Unfortunately the action seems philosophically driven more by emotion and determinism rather than reason and volition. But that's not really the focus, and might be irrelevant considering the context of prison life. Though there is one memorable line about a warrior's best weapon being his mind. Clearly the creator of this film, Ric Roman Waugh, wants us thinking more about prison reform. His main point is that our jails are designed to break men even more than they already are. Prison doesn't help them become better individuals. It forces them to become hardened tribal animals. It offers an environment where otherwise good men have no choice but to form or join a racial gang to survive.
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