Metrograph Pictures will release The Raft, the documentary about the 1970’s infamous social experiment known as “The Sex Raft.” The film directed by Marcus Lindeen (Regretters, Glorious Accidents); and winner of the Grand Jury Award at 2018 CPH: DOX and Silver Hugo Award at 2018 Chicago International Film Festival will open Friday, June 7 at Metrograph in NY with nationwide expansion to follow.
In the summer of 1973, an international crew of six women and five men, chosen for their youth, diversity, and sex appeal, embarked together on a most unusual sea voyage—a close-quarters, privacy-free trip across the Atlantic on a raft christened the Acali, initiated by the controversial Mexican anthropologist Santiago Genovés (1923-2013), who proposed to use the group as guinea pigs in his investigation of the origins (and erotics) of violent conflict.
Controversial from the get-go, lambasted by the media as a ‘Sex Raft’, the Acali mission stayed afloat for 101 days. Now, more than forty years later, surviving Acali crew members reunite to recollect their experience for filmmaker Marcus Lindeen (Regretters, Glorious Accidents), who has devised an ingenious method for taking them—and us—back into their past. Extensive archival 16mm footage shot on-board the Acali shows us the subjects of The Raft as they were, while studio-bound reenactments on an exact replica of the vessel help to weave together future and past in a unique and fascinating fashion.
What Lindeen and the Acali veterans recover together is a story of idealism gone awry, with the egomaniacal Genovés, resurrected here through readings from his research and diaries. The Acali crew members also dredge up their own memories of youthful journeys of self-doubt and self-determination, and of the unforgettable bonds that they formed both because of and in spite of Genovés’s power-mad macho muddling, which eventually threatens to put his test subjects in very real physical danger.
Coming across the distance of years like a drama unfolding in real-time, The Raft is a moral thriller and much more besides: a document of the thin line between science and cultism in the early ‘70s, a touching story of camaraderie and sisterhood in particular, and, in the person of Genovés, an unforgettable portrait of oblivious, toxic masculinity. It is the story of a voyage started long ago—and one that in some sense is still underway.
The Raft is narrated by Daniel Giménez Cacho (lead actor in Lucrecia Martel’s Zama), featuring production design by frequent Lars von Trier collaborator Simone Grau Roney. An exhibition of the film’s recreated set was featured at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.