Back in the mists of 1973, it seemed a pretty novel idea for an anthropologist to place 11 demographically diverse strangers on a bare-bones raft for 100 days, and task them with crossing the Atlantic Ocean as tempers flare and sexual sparks fly between them. 45 years later, the so-called Acali Experiment sounds like a tired premise for the reality-TV machine’s umpteenth rejig of the Big Brother formula. 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.
Winner of the top documentary prize at Copenhagen’s CPH:DOX festival , the film deftly mines the tension between perspectives past and present, playing the contemporary reflections of the Acali Experiment’s surviving subjects – most of them women – against the defensive, ethically questionable observations of the project’s late Spanish-Mexican founder Santiago Genoves. Spiky, still-topical surges of cultural, racial and gender conflict emerge in the inadvertent dialogue between them, as well as in the live, present-day conversation between the reunited seafarers. […] That the voyage does not proceed at all according to the script in [Genoves’] head is not surprising; what is, however, is the fact that an actual scholar of human behavior imagined he could control the situation to this extent.
Guy Lodge, Variety