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CPH:DOX 2018

Marcus Lindeen • Director

“This experiment showed us that peace and harmony are possible in society”

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- We chatted to Swedish director Marcus Lindeen after his The Raft won the DOX:Award, the top prize at the CPH:DOX Documentary Film Festival in Copenhagen

Marcus Lindeen  • Director

In the 1970s, Spanish anthropologist Santiago Genovés conducted one of the most curious sociological experiments in history. He convinced six women and four men to embark on a boat trip with him from the Canary Islands to Mexico. As they crossed the Atlantic, the scientist carefully observed the behaviour of the crew members, focusing on certain aspects such as violence and sexuality. But his tests did not turn out as he had hoped. 

More than 40 years later, the project is brought to life again in the documentary The Raft [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Marcus Lindeen
film profile
]
, produced by Fasad. Swedish director and artist Marcus Lindeen built a replica of the vessel, Acali, and brought together the six surviving members of the crew on it. We chatted to the Swedish director after he won the DOX:Award, the top prize at the CPH:DOX Documentary Film Festival in Copenhagen.

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Cineuropa: You found out about this experiment because you were looking to shoot a story about a group of people who had done something noteworthy in their youth.
Marcus Lindeen:
For me, the key was to explore how these people had changed decades after they had such an extreme experience in their youth. I wanted to find out what lessons they had got out of that joint experience decades later. I looked into homosexual campaigners, hippie communes and indie theatre groups until I happened upon this experiment.

Santiago Genovés died just weeks after instigating the project. What was the most complicated thing when it came to reconstructing the story without the help of its main driving force?
It took me two years to find the archive images that he had filmed. The name of the project, Acali, was filed away under a different name, and it wasn’t easy to chase down the Mexican TV channel that was storing the images in its archives. During that period, I kind of turned into a detective, because it was also complicated to track down the whereabouts of the surviving participants, who are now living on various continents.

It’s not the first time that you’ve shot a documentary in a film studio.
On this occasion, I decided to rebuild the boat so that the participants’ memories and emotions could resurface more easily. It was akin to doing memory theatre. I like to explore how other narrative resources, such as theatre or fiction film, work in the documentary genre. I toy with certain elements like the costume and set design.

The Raft also has a second life as an art installation.
It was a commission by the Pompidou Centre in Paris, where it’s been on display for months. Now it will be exhibited in the Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen until May. It is interesting to discover how both formats have a mutual influence on each other. Furthermore, in this way I can give the viewer the chance to become more deeply involved in the story, getting on board a boat like the one the documentary’s protagonists lived on; they can feel all their claustrophobia and isolation. 

Now that you’ve studied the experiment in detail, do you think it was a success or a failure?
In scientific terms, it was a failure, since we are not familiar with it today. The same thing happened with so many other experiments in the 1970s. However, as some of its participants readily admit, what we can conclude is that it was an example of peace and harmony in a society, even though that was not exactly what Santiago wanted to demonstrate.

(Translated from Spanish)

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