Published May 07, 2012Taking a less traditional approach to rehabilitation, the Scottish prison system is giving prisoners sharp scissors, a presumed weapon, to practice the unlikely skill set of hairdressing. It allows the men not only to service a standard need within the prison system ― cutting the hair of fellow inmates ― but to also compete at the Scottish Prison Service Hairdressing Competition, where they can demonstrate their newly acquired skill sets and be rewarded for taking strides towards social reintegration.
Cutting Loose tells the story of Francis Duffy, the defending champion of the prison hairstyling circuit, as he gears up for his final competition. This former heroin addict shares some intimate thoughts on his tragic past and where he sees his life heading once he leaves prison.
We also get the opportunity to meet some of Duffy's hairstyling competitors from other detention facilities, hearing their stories of personal woe as related to how the prison hairstyling program is helping them get back on track. Focusing on a skilled trade gives these prisoners a sense of hope and direction, rather than affording them the time to dwell on their past. As one of the men put it, "ten minutes in here is like ten minutes outside of jail," when reflecting on the significance of the event.
Driving home this idea of escape and opportunity in the name of rehabilitation, co-directors Finlay Pretsell and Adrian McDowell juxtapose the deep grey and dinginess of the prison with the bright, sterile whites of the hair salon, figuratively and literally providing a light at the end of a dark tunnel. It's a stylistic tactic that turns what could have been a quaint, short social issue doc into an artistic work of optimism and pathos, making the seemingly quirky into something profound. (Scottish Documentary Institute)