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War may be hell, but this excellent Greek documentary shows that peace can also have its challenges - from the 30th Raindance Film Festival

Many films focus on the build up to conflict, be it a war, invasion, or personal revenge. However, what happens when you have to prepare for combat that never comes? That’s the intriguing premise at the heart of new documentary Dogwatch.

The film takes us to the Somali coastline, an area traditionally fraught with violence for cargo ships besieged by pirates. However, over the years, the threat has dwindled, but the vigilance has not. So, the mercenaries hired to protect the ships as highly trained security find themselves day in, day out, preparing for a confrontation that almost certainly won’t happen. Director Gregoris Rentis focuses on three men living this life – newcomer Yorgos, the nothing experienced and eager Costa, and Victor, who is looking for a way out of the life after years at sea.

To call this a movie about nothing would be a gross understatement. Filmed elegantly, it looks at men who find purpose in futility. They find themselves grateful for a job that allows this type of travel and relative safety, but there is a nagging frustration in the knowledge that they meticulously train for an event that has not happened in a long time. “Hurry up and wait” is a phrase used often to describe their existence, which becomes a daily routine of drills and morale building. Those drills take on new significance here, as the men engage in the only instance where their skills are called upon.

There’s a sense of farce about the film, which the director openly embraces. From the instructors barking orders for pointless training, to the simple shots where the men try to fill the time, this odd scenario lends itself to the occasional chuckle. However, there are also some serious moments, such as Victor trying to put this unusual career in context, or the way in which many of the men reveal emotions almost in spite of themselves. One soldier celebrating his birthday refuses to reveal his age – it’s unclear if this is vanity, awkwardness in front of the camera, or reluctance to reflect on the time spent away from his loved ones.

A unique directing debut from Rentis, Dogwatch’s premise doesn’t sound exciting, but its ability to find a human story amongst the waves means it becomes a delight to watch, and a triumph of directorial execution.

Dogwatch premieres at the 30th Raindance Film Festival.

By Victoria Luxford - 21-10-2022

London-born Victoria Luxford has been a film critic and broadcaster since 2007, writing about cinema all over the world. Beginning with regional magazines and entertainment websites, she soon built up...

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