Visions du Réel Review: Dogwatch

Mercenaries drilling on ship

The term ‘pirate’ conjures up a number of images, mostly inspired by Disney and childhood films. Maybe visions of Captain James Hook in Peter Pan or even Johnny Depp hamming it up as if his life depended on it. While the galleons, skull & crossbones and eye patches of yore may now be ancient history, piracy still remains a major issue on the high seas. Despite a recent resurgence, it’s nowhere near as bad as it was at its peak at the beginning of the century, but areas such as the coast of Somali still pose a significant threat.

Major shipping companies hire mercenaries to protect their ships. Conscious of the potential costs involved should they be boarded, ransomed and the cargo damaged or stolen. However, most of the journey is relatively risk free, so these men (which they usually are) have little to do. With a lot of time to kill and just the open sea for company, it can be very lonely existence. Dogwatch follows a few of these lost souls as they go about their work.

Dogwatch is a fascinating insight into the lives of three mercenaries, contrasting the intense training and preparedness exercises they undertake with the reality of everyday life onboard one of these vessels. In his first feature documentary, Gregoris Rentis follows these guards at different stages of their careers, from youthful exuberance to wearied experience. Dogwatch is an entertaining and offbeat film which revels in poetry and form.

Dogwatch screens at Visions du Réel.

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