Hot House

Israel | 2007 | 89 min

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2007 Sundance Film Festival, Special Jury Prize, World Documentary.

Thousands of Palestinians are incarcerated in Israel today. Most Israelis regard them as murderers and criminals. To the Palestinians, however, they are freedom fighters, heroes, and martyrs in the making. Granted extraordinary access to the highest-security institutions, renowned filmmaker Shimon Dotan uncovers a startling truth: Israeli prisons have become a breeding ground for the next generation of Palestinian leaders and a hotbed for terrorist plots.

Dotan focuses his camera on everyday prison life. What emerges is a surprising glimpse of the prisoners as informed thinkers who are immersed in the details of the centuries-old conflict through newspapers and television. Dotan interviews inmates who are committed to negotiations as well as others who are shockingly unrepentant about their participation in suicide bombings. The cold-blooded testimony of a female Hamas leader, Ahlam Tamimi, when she was proudly serving 16 life sentences for blowing up a Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem, is perhaps the most chilling.

Israel's prisons have evolved into virtual incubators for Palestinian nationalism, strengthening inmates' ideology and forging a political force that impacts far beyond their walls. Eschewing the simplistic "white hat, black hat" mentality that dominates discussions of terrorism today, Dotan's brilliantly constructed, disturbingly provocative film is both a humanizing force and an alarming wake-up call.

  • DIR Shimon Dotan
    SCR Shimon Dotan
    CAST Ahlam Tamimi, Hassan Abu Yousuf, Faik Mabhuh.