Dogborn (2022) Venice Film Festival | Critics’ Week

September 6th, 2022
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Isabella Carbonell; Cast: Silvana Imam, Emma Lu, Mia Liu, Philip Oros, Miriam Löwe, Lukas Malinauskas | Sweden 2022, 84 min.

Nothing can prepare you for this brutal confrontation with sheer evil – well-camouflaged by the comfortable affluence of its Swedish settings.

Isabella Carbonell’s debut feature film follows homeless twins Sister and Brother who are living on the very periphery of society. The female of the species is in this case the breadwinner, her sheer aggression garners her considerable agency in the soft underbelly of Swedish society. And although brother is nearly mute, his anger is directed against himself. When they lose their rough sleeping accommodation, they turn to cousin Petri.

Petri works for Yann, a model entrepreneur, suave and full of ambition. But the twins are unaware that he is running a sex-worker racket using minors from Asia, and the twins’ job will be to ferry these vulnerable young women around to clients who live in swanky flats in the upmarket part of town. Brother is the first to say ‘no’, but Sister does her best to hang on to the potentially lucrative job opportunity, before using a billiard cue to hit back at one of the clients.

Sister and Molly (Yang), a teenage Asian sex-worker then make off with the money, although Yann is still pimping Molly’s younger sister Miriam (Löwe) – who sometimes works as part of a double-act with her older sister.  Over the course of two intense days the twins are forced to make radical decisions about their way forward in life. Should they struggle on with an ethical path or join the sordid underworld in the Swedish capital.

What is particularly shocking about the pimping racket is the normality of it all, the casual way these men use under-age girls – one character even has teenage daughters of his own who he can’t get rid of quickly enough when Molly and Sis appear on his doorstep. But the only violence is served out by Sis, who has finally found suitable scapegoats for her deep-seated fury.

Working with a predominantly female crew Carbonell handles her well-paced narrative with surprising deftness in this sophomore feature, DoP Maja Dennhag contrasts the greed in the faces of the ‘clients’ with the lush surroundings in which they operate to expose the true horror of this human trade which shows how easy it is for desperate people living on the margins of society to be drawn into a squalid world of criminality when the wolf is at the door. AS


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