Dir/scr. Marcus Lindeen. Sweden/Denmark/US/Germany. 2018. 97 mins.
THE RAFT is Marcus Lindeen’s follow up to The Regretters. As another studio-based experimental film it won the top prize at this year’s CPH: DOX festival, one of Europe’s most important documentary festivals. A fascinating study in sociology and psychology, it unites a group of 7 survivors from an 11-man (and woman) raft (the Alcali), who discuss the sea-bound project they took part in during the 1970s – and their experiences then provide remarkable contrast to the people they have now become – although the archive footage is more interesting than the contemporary chats, their maturity now enables them to gain insight into their younger selves.
Marcus Lindeen was essentially playing a game with these people. They had all been selected along strict guidelines (good-looking, sexually attractive parents who may miss their children and look for support from each other) and confirm (or deny) long-standing theories on violence, provocation, sexual desire and group dynamics etc. The raft in question set sail in the Atlantic in 1973 and was put together by the radical Mexican social anthropologist Santiago Genovés, who had been involved in a plane hi-jacking. It was initially Genovés who came up with the idea to put the group in a isolating situation and thence to study the violence and conflict that potentially ensued. Very much along the same lines as the various Uk TV realit programmes – only more dangerous – there were clearly perils involved in the seaborne voyage of the Acali from the Canary Islands to Mexico, that took over three months and was crewed by volunteers of different nationalities, race, religion and social backgrounds with the sole aim of “creating tension”. Crucially the only person who felt conflicted was Genoves himself, and he confesses to breaking down in tears one night on deck.
Strangely enough, the only one concerned about the voyage was Maria, the Swedish captain, who stayed calm throughout a near hit from a massive tanker, and everyone grew to respect her. But soon they lose faith in Genoves who withdraws, feigning illness, and later has some sort of minor breakdown. As they set sail, Lindeen had likened this to experiments with rats, but one of the women confirms that the group eventually became inseparable regardless of their radical differences.
Distilled from over eight hours of 16mm footage, this is an extraordinary endeavour. But it could never be done today with the Health and Safety limitations, let alone the lack of Suntan cream! Far from violence and conflict, what actually comes out of this fantastic voyage is the comment “we started out ‘them and us’ and we became ‘us’”. A positive conclusion to a potentially lethal experiment. MT
NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE