The Mark of Cain (2000)
3.0 · 1

The Mark of Cain documents the fading art form and “language” of Russian criminal tattoos, formerly a forbidden topic in Russia. The now vanishing practice is seen as reflecting the transition of the broader Russian society. Filmed in some of Russia’s most notorious prisons, including the fabled White Swan, the interviews with prisoners, guards, and criminologists reveal the secret language of “The Zone” and “The Code of Thieves” (Vor v zakone).

The prisoners of the Stalinist Gulag, or "Zone," as it is called, developed a complex social structure (documented as early as the 1920s) that incorporated highly symbolic tattooing as a mark of rank. The existence of these inmates at prisons and forced labor camps was treated by the state as a deeply-kept secret. In the 1990s, Russia's prison population exploded, with overcrowding among the worst in the world. Some estimates suggest that in the last generation over thirty million of Russia's inmates have had tattoos even though the process is illegal inside Russian prisons.

The Mark of Cain examines every aspect of the tattooing, from the actual creation of the tattoo ink, interviews with the tattooers and soberly looks at the double-edged sword of prison tattoos. In many ways, they were needed to survive brutal Russian prisons, but mark the prisoner for life, which complicates any readmission to “normal” society they may have. Tattoos expressly identify what the convict has been convicted of, how many prisons he’s been in and what kind of criminal he is. Tattoos, essentially, tell you everything you need to know about that person without ever asking. Each tattoo represents a variety of things; cupolas on churches represent the number of convictions a convict has, epaulets tattooed on shoulders represent the rank of the individual in the crime world and so on and so forth.

The unflinching look at the Russian prison system is slowly woven into the film. Cells meant to hold 15 hold 35 to 45 men. Drug resistant tuberculosis runs rampant through the prison populations and prisoners are served three meals a day of watery slop. There are allegations of brutality by the guards. As these men deal with pestilence, violence and grossly substandard living conditions, the prison guards and administration put on a talent show.

The film served as source material for David Cronenberg’s 2007 dramatic movie, Eastern Promises. He commented, "This is a very courageous documentary on the tattooing subculture in Russian prisons. I don't know how it ever got made, but it's beautiful, scary, and heartbreaking."

www.youtube.com
on Sat, Feb 26 2011 · 6,933 Views
What's Next
Related
Load Comments
Trending Today
"Desert Goddess" Remembers Arizona's Glen Canyon
7 min · 11,001 views today · In this excerpt from the award-winning documentary DamNation, filmmakers Ben Knight and Travis Rummel interview the "desert goddess," Katie Lee. When the Glen Canyon Dam was...
I Wish for You... Jeremy Irons is a Grandfather With A Beautiful Message for His Granddaughter
5 min · 6,987 views today · 'War Horse' author Michael Morpurgo and actors Jeremy Irons and Maxine Peake have joined forces to make a powerful new 5 minute film especially for you. Please watch and...
Feeling the Yern: Why One Millennial Woman Would Rather Go to Hell Than Vote for Hillary
Holly Wood · 3,080 views today · Stumping for Hillary Clinton this weekend in New Hampshire, hedge fund manager Madeleine Albright squawked, "There's a special place in Hell for women who don't help each...
9 Ways We Can Make Social Justice Movements Less Elitist and More Accessible
Kai Cheng Thom · 2,313 views today · In my first year of college, I stopped calling myself an activist. It took attending just a few meetings of the campus queer group for me to realize that I didn’t fit in with...
When Corporatocracy Replaced Democracy - a Dystopian Warning From the Future
Andrew Butler · 2,294 views today · Ever since Trump was elected the question on everyone's lips has been, "Who’s next?" The border between the US and Mexico is effectively closed to people, although it’s still...
Why Bernie Sanders Is The More Realistic Candidate
Bill McKibben · 2,065 views today · In the mounting, panicky attempts of elites to derail the Sanders candidacy, one strand dominates. You find it woven through every sage piece from the old-school pundits of...
The Lie We Live
8 min · 1,832 views today · Spencer Cathcart raises all the right questions, exposes collective lies and stories we tell ourselves all the while retaining a sense of hope for humanity. This video will...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,504 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
"The World Is My Country" Shows Origin of Yasiin Bey's World Passport
8 min · 1,421 views today · This clip from upcoming feature documentary "The World Is My Country" introduces the origins of and need for a World Passport.
My Special Place in Hell, Courtesy of Unfettered Greed
Donna Smith · 1,299 views today · 'Women all over the country can write about the damage done to their lives by the rigged economy and the special place in hell they work to escape daily when trying to fight back.'
Who Are You? This Breathtaking Video Might Change Your Life
2 min · 1,222 views today · "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can...
HEIST: Who Stole the American Dream? (2012)
76 min · 1,192 views today · HEIST: Who Stole the American Dream? is stunning audiences across the globe, as it exposes the real truth behind the worldwide economic collapse, tracing its origins to a 1971...
Republicans Welcomed Bernie Sanders to Wisconsin By Calling Him an Extremist. His Response? Perfect.
5 min · 1,102 views today · This was just awesome. No wonder so many people love Sander's message. The opening minutes of the July 1st rally was a classic #FeelTheBern moment, delivered to a 10,000...
Act Now, Urges Study, or Planet Faces 10,000+ Years of Adverse Climate Change
Lauren McCauley · 1,048 views today · "The next few decades offer a brief window of opportunity to minimize large-scale and potentially catastrophic climate change that will extend longer than the entire history of...
Nigerians Are Building Fireproof, Bulletproof, and Eco-Friendly Homes With Plastic Bottles and Mud
Amanda Froelich · 879 views today · These colorful homes are bulletproof, fireproof, and can withstand earthquakes. They also maintain a comfortable temperature, produce zero carbon emissions, and are powered by...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 838 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
The Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy
3 min · 737 views today · What is the best way to ease someone's pain and suffering? In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic...
This Video Dispels Every "Nature VS Nurture" Myth You've Ever Heard. The Implications are Profound.
31 min · 715 views today · If everyone watched this it could radically transform the world. This is a segment from Moving Forward (2011). Watch the full documentary online here.
F*ck That: A Guided Meditation for the Realities of Today's World
2 min · 617 views today · Just acknowledge that all that sh*t is f*cking b*llshit — you're here now, in this place, with your inner stillness. Take in a deep breath ... now breathe out. Just feel the...
The Profound Ways that Schooling Harms Society: Incredibly, All of This Is Invisible to Our Culture
Carol Black · 524 views today · Occupy Your Brain: On Power, Knowledge, and the Re-Occupation of Common Sense One of the most profound changes that occurs when modern schooling is introduced into traditional...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?