‘The Raft’ by the Swedish director Marcus Lindeen, which tells the story of one of the strangest social experiments of all times ,and told by those who took part in it, took the top prize – the Dox:Award 2018 at the 15th edition of CPH:DOX – Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival. The film held its world premiere at as CPH:DOX.
In 1973, five men and six women sailed across the Atlantic on a raft. A social experiment and a scientific study of violence, aggression, sex and group behaviour, conducted by a radical Mexican anthropologist. Everything was filmed and documented in a diary. But theory is one thing, practice is another. And without wanting to reveal too much, the experiment didn’t exactly work out as planned. Over 40 years later, Swedish artist and filmmaker Marcus Lindeen brings the crew together again for the first time since the experiment, on a faithful copy of the raft in a film studio, to look back at the three intense months they spent together, isolated and without privacy, on ‘The Sex Raft’, as the press called it.
The jury gave a Special Mention to ‘América’, a charming, Mexican adventure about three mismatched brothers and their 93-year-old grandmother in a film about family ties.
‘Laila at the Bridge’ by Elizabeth Mirzaei and Gulistan Mirzaei, which had its world premiere at CPH:DOX won the F:ACT Award – dedicated to auteur filmmaking in the field between research-based, investigative journalism, activism and documentary cinema.
A powerful film about a woman who is willpower in its purest form. Day after day, the charismatic and strong-willed woman puts on her small ballerina shoes and colourful scarves and heads under the bridge to take them to her private rehab centre, where the aim is to get them out of their addiction with ice-cold baths, communal prayers and motherly reprimands. It is not a miracle factory. Many experience a relapse, and Laila has to struggle with constant financial problems. When the Taliban’s arrival in the city scares customers away from the restaurant she is running to finance her centres, things start looking bleak. But Laila threatens corrupt ministers in their marble offices, shoots mafia thugs in her bedroom with a shotgun and with equal measures of care and indignation has a serious word with the opium-addled men under the bridge.
The winner of the New:Vision Award is the film ‘Wild Relatives’ by Jumana Manna. Jumana Manna’s original and politically sensitive new work draws lines between three distant spots on the world map: Syria, Lebanon and Svalbard. The lines chart a route and a complex network of relationships. ‘Wild Relatives’ exposes the exchange of ecological currency between two of the world’s grain banks, which are the archives of the smallest basic ingredient of agriculture: Seeds. Biodiversity, conflicts and international politics are parts of a game with perspectives reaching far out into the most distant future, and form the the basis for a humorous and thought-provoking conversation between a priest and a scientist far out in the middle of nowhere.
The jury gave a Special Mention to ‘Translations’ by Tinne Zenner, a critical and graceful 16mm film in which the vistas of Greenland create a space for free thinking.
The winner of the Nordic:Dox Award – recognizing the best and brightest in cinema from the Nordic countries – is the film ‘Lykkelænder’ by the Danish director Lasse Lau. The film held its world premiere at the festival.
The relationship between Greenland and Denmark is full of fantasy and myths. And these are exactly what Danish artist Lasse Lau reflects upon – and in turn documents – in his first feature-length film. But how do you give a form to the Greenlandic experience when you are an outsider yourself? Lau has created a sensitive film about authenticity and recreation by letting both elements become a part of the work, together with his performers.
The jury gave a Special Mention to the Norwegian film ‘The Night’ by Steffan Strandberg, a beautifully animated and bittersweet film about two brothers and their upbringing with an alcoholic mother and musician father.
The winner of the Next:Wave Award given to emerging filmmakers, is the film ‘Beautiful Things’ by the Italian directors Giorgio Ferrero & Federico Biasin. If documentary science fiction was a genre – and it is now! – then ‘Beautiful Things’ is the film that locates the future in the midst of our present age. A machine engineer on a supertanker and a scientist specialising in mathematics and audio studies are two of the human cogs in a bulimic cycle of (over)production and (over)consumption of the material objects that surround us – a cycle we never even think about. A chain with many segments, which the filmmaker duo of Giorgio Ferrero and Federico Biasin brings together in an accomplished audiovisual study of our times, but with room for the human quirks that constitute the grit in the machinery.
The jury gave a Special Mention to Minding the Gap (Bing Liu, United States), where three young friends grow up, become young men and make life choices in front of rolling cameras, and Conventional Sins (Anat Yuta Zuria & Shira-Clara Winther, Israel), a Docu-noir about sexual abuse in the ultra-orthodox environment in Jerusalem.
The winner of the Politiken Audience Award is ‘False Confessions’ by the director Katrine Philp, a legal thriller about a pro-bono idealist’s work for justice in a cynical justice system. The film held its world premiere at the festival.
During an interrogation in the United States, it is both legal and commonplace to use special psychological techniques to make the suspect confess. In a closed room, coached interrogators can not only get anyone to confess to anything – they can also make innocent people believe that they have actually committed crimes such as murder and child assault. In New York, the Danish-born defence attorney Jane Fisher-Byrialsen is working to prevent false confessions, so that less people end up in prison for crimes they have not committed.
image via Facebook – The winner of DOX:Award: “The Raft” Photo by Inger Rønnenfelt