Four Years of Night by Itamar Alcalay is a documentary look at a bunch of Parisian skinheads. It is also an especially compelling look at Swedish-born Esaias Baitel, the son of an Auschwitz survivor, who photographed these lowlifes, during the years 1977-1981.
Today, Baitel goes back to find his materials in his storage unit in order to revisit that period when he infiltrated the group. He shares with the viewer his pictures, his taped interviews, and his hesitant friendships. Baitel approaches his subjects with a non-judgmental anthropological eye, although he does share terrible accounts of their hatred of Jews, of their beatings of transvestites and homeless, of their Nazi ideology, and their heavily tattooed bodies. He says that some of them were clinically deranged but some of them could have been saved.
I found this film to be strangely compelling -- not because of the portrayal of the skinheads/neo-Nazis/Hell's Angels, but because of Baitel who is a very special individual. He shares his memories of this period that he spent with his subjects, and he speaks of it sensitively, frankly and openly.
A photo book was published in Sweden in the 1980s which showed these pictures. Better than a book, this film is superbly made and adds a whole additional dimension -- both historical and personal.
For Years of Night is available from Claudius Films