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Dog Pound's Cinematic Teenage Riot

The director of the intensely brutal prison drama tells us why we should all take a second look at incarcerated teens

Kim Chapiron's Dog Pound is a searing 21st century take on the classic borstal movie Scum and it explores the white-hot rage at the heart of the testosterone-fuelled male teenage psyche. Filmed entirely within the confines of a correctional facility in Montana, with many of the roles played by genuine inmates, the film provides a powerful and at times intensely violent exploration of the nihilism that plagues what could perhaps be described as a lost generation. Centring around a visceral and brilliant performance by newcomer Adam Butcher, the film closely follows the narrative arc of Scum and yet it has its own unique quality, in that it remains perhaps even more detached from its subject matter – choosing simply to portray the grim situation these kids find themselves in, rather than provide moral commentary upon it.

Dazed Digital: Is this film a comment upon American society?
Kim Chapiron
: As a French director I think it would be arrogant to say that I am making a comment on America. I can only really talk about the young people we met when I was researching the film. Most of the research was in the middle of the states, so I am talking very specifically about the midwest. Having done that, I think I have the right to say that we have to find another solution to putting these kids in prison, because when you go there – even if you know there is a serious reason they are in there – you can see a kid’s light in their eyes. That was one of my main goals with this movie – to show this light.

Dazed Digital: What did you learn while researching the film?
Kim Chapiron:
The thing I realised most is that I am from the last generation with dreams. My father came through the punk and hippie periods and he gave me the feeling that we all have the right to dream. The thing that I saw saw with these kids was that they just don’t dream any more. There is this rage you can feel in the movie that I think is specific to this new generation – they have this incredible anger inside them.

Dazed Digital: The riot scene is incredibly powerful, was it difficult to shoot?
Kim Chapiron:
The riot scene was an incredible moment. We shot that scene right at the end and the whole time we had been shooting the film all the kids involved were working towards it. There was something interesting going on because during the scene all of them totally forgot the camera. I remember there was this one kid smashing a big hole in the wall and he just would not stop. I remember saying to him, 'But we’re not filming you!'

Dazed Digital: Is there a central message you are seeking to communicate?
Kim Chapiron:
 Well, it's just so strange to go into these prisons and see all these children. We spent a lot of time in there with them laughing and joking while we were working, but the final feeling I came away with was was so, so dark. I am just trying to share that emotion – that is really my main goal. I think all I am really trying to say in this film is that we should have a second look at kids in this situation, and that we don’t have the right to judge them.

Dazed Digital: How did you come across the main actor?
Kim Chapiron:
I met Adam Butcher just two days before we began shooting the movie, because the initial actor we had in mind told me at the last minute that could not do it. I was so lucky to find Adam and meeting him was an incredible thing – it was beautiful to feel his energy because he’s fucked up, just like his director, you know? (laughs). When he is on set, he is just so in the movie that you cannot imagine! The crazy thing that I can tell you about him is that he just eats meat and nothing else! He's that kind of guy!

Dog Pound is in cinemas from today