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“It all started with a hijacking.” When Spanish-Mexican anthropologist Santiago Genovés experienced the violent takeover of an airplane, he had a flash. A lifelong student of human violence, he suddenly realized the perfect form for an experiment he’d been designing for years. He would build a raft, crew it with young, beautiful people from around the world, and set it adrift in the Atlantic. He would install women in all the positions of authority onboard. And when violence broke out—as, given the profusion of youth and danger in confined quarters, he was certain it would—he’d be there to document its origins, its course, and its effects. The experiment would help to answer “the most important question of our time: can we do without war?”
In the summer of 1973, the raft, dubbed Acali, sets off at last for an Atlantic crossing. Drifting on an ark with sun, sea, and cigarettes under the benign gaze of a bearded academic, the voyage seems at first like an idyll for the ten volunteers onboard. But as Genovés’ “scientific” interventions become more pointed and invasive, the crew begins to realize that the experiment was designed not to model peaceful coexistence, but to spur conflict. Yet something unexpected happens onboard: solidarity and mutual respect. Desperate for results, Genovés stirs the pot, fanning rivalries and resentment. And as tensions heighten, dark possibilities run through the crew.
Swedish documentarian Marcus Lindeen structures The Raft ingeniously: he has a full-scale replica of the Acali built on a soundstage, and assembles all the surviving participants onboard. 43 years older but still deeply bonded to one another, the crewmembers tell their own stories, alongside riveting footage shot during the Acali’s journey. Can we do without war? Lindeen’s film suggests a surprising and hopeful possibility.
Description courtesy of Martin Schwartz.
“Whatever your view of the experiment’s scientific value, Lindeen’s film is a fascinating insight into one of the strangest experiments from 1970s academia.” – David Hughes, Time Out London
”The surprisingly short leap from radical academic study to lurid exploitation is navigated with wit, sensitivity and rueful social awareness in Swedish director Marcus Lindeen’s gripping debut feature The Raft.” – Guy Lodge, Variety