Cutting Loose


Reviewed by: Donald Munro

Cutting Loose
"Cutting Loose has a certain style and flair that brings out the artistry of hair dressing."

From the outset, Cutting Loose is shot more like a movie than a documentary. The tight facial shots of prisoners, the camera following right behind a man walking through a hall so he is the only static thing in shot. The walls and gantries, the bars and doors constantly falling away to the left and to the right. For a place that you could imagine as being cold and austere, Cutting Loose shows prison as claustrophobic and full of movement. Everything you see about jail is cramped. There isn't space to be alone, to have privacy. Is this a Hollywood prison drama (fights, riots, breakouts, escape) or a documentary about hairdressing?

Francis Duffy is the three times Scottish Prisons Hairdresser of the Year. He is competing again for what he hopes to be his last time. "The next competition I'll do is the one on the outside." He talks about what it means to him to be in prison and how he copes. In prison he found a vocation: hairdressing. It is a skill that came naturally to him but besides working with hair he has to work with people, make conversation with them, listen to them and understand them. He talks about what it means to him to work as a hairdresser and why it is important to the other inmates. They get some time out of their normal routine, they get to talk and be the centre of attention for a little while. Their haircuts allow them to express their individuality. They take pride in their appearance. A number of them proudly show off their hair to the camera, mugshot style, first to the front and then to the side.

Copy picture

As the contest approaches the filmmakers put some of the prisoners vying for the hairdressing crown in front of the camera. They aren't probed about how they wound up in jail. There is no salacious focus on their crimes. They are just allowed to speak about their experiences in prison without the obvious trappings of an interview, naturally and fluently. The film shows them working, all the frantic clipping and cutting, and talking. When it is time for the competition it shows them competing.

Cutting Loose has a certain style and flair that brings out the artistry of hair dressing. The camera is used in a more interpretive way than in most documentaries. The film gives an insight into a little known part of the prison system and shows the rehabilitative effect of interesting creative work.

Reviewed on: 24 Jun 2013
Share this with others on...
Cutting Loose packshot
Prisoners move toward rehabilitation and struggle with their hopes and dreams in the run up to the annual Scottish Prison Service hairdressing competition.
Amazon link

Director: Finlay Pretsell, Adrian McDowall

Year: 2011

Runtime: 30 minutes

Country: UK

Search database:

If you like this, try:

The World's Most Fashionable Prison