Much like Alcatraz, Santo Stefano is a fortress-like Mediterranean penitentiary closed by the Italian government in the mid-'60s. The prison, named for the small island where it's located in the Tyrrhenian Sea, provides the setting for the directorial debut of screenwriter Angelo Pasquini. Antonio (Andrea De Rosa), the pre-teen son of prison director Bruno D'Assisi (Claudio Bigagli), attends the prison school although his mother (Laura Morante) is back on the mainland. Antonio becomes friends with Nicola (Claudio Amendola), an inmate who has the trust of director D'Assisi. Campaigning in the Church and press for prison reform, D'Assisi attempts to upgrade the atmosphere in the prison by creating a sense of community and trust. However, escalating right-wing reactions build into a backlash against his methods. After a mainland visit, D'Assisi finds the evil Ardito (Antonio Petrocelli) and a brutal bunch of guards have replaced his more trusted guards. The character of D'Assisi is loosely based on the humane activities of the chief who headed the prison between 1952 and 1960. Shown at the 1997 Venice Film Festival.
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