By Mark Bell | March 12, 2012

Almost fully-covered in tattoos, Janusz has been in prison for 14 years. Recently returned home, he sets out to reconnect with his family, most notably his sister. Unfortunately, his sister does not wish to see him, despite his efforts. Still, he trudges on.

What is most striking about Written in Ink is that it is a documentary, and I wasn’t even aware of that until one of Janusz’s brothers makes a comment about the camera. Sure, there were other hints along the way; Janusz sometimes looks directly into the camera, but I thought that was an artistic choice of the director. I didn’t see it for what it probably was: a guy in a documentary taking a look at those that are filming him.

So if it doesn’t feel like a documentary, than what does it feel like? It feels and looks like an extremely well-shot narrative short, the kind that wins festival awards year in and year out. There’s an ambiguity to the story that becomes even more powerful once you accept that it is real but, had you just seen this out of the blue and no one said anything about it being a documentary, I don’t think the film would lose anything. It’s a rare narrative-documentary hybrid that straddles the line so well, it excels in both areas.

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