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Dead Slow Ahead – Lost in Navigation

“Dead Slow Ahead” – Mauro Herce

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The freighter Fair Lady, adrift at night in the ceaseless ocean, placeless, nationless, out of space but also, perhaps, out of time. Though the power and the beauty of the high seas at times rages on, the ship mostly traverses desolate, pseudo-post-apocalyptic landscapes drained of color. It is manned by a Filipino crew of seamen lacking any sense of their individuality or their humanity, drones of late capitalism, trapped oceans apart from their loved ones, cogs in a machine that devours them. In this unfamiliar world dialogue is for the most part absent, words replaced by a constant murmur, the howls of wind and the blips and bleeps of metal machine music. That is, until an unexpected disaster strikes in the form of an intrusion from the natural world, which is only when we realize the actual purpose of their mission.

The labyrinthine interior carcass of the (space)ship is lit like a film set, tinted red and green; the camera very slowly tracks the corridors and the snaking pipes, creating an atmosphere more familiar to an antiquated science-fiction or horror film, hypnotic and hallucinatory. Is the Fair Lady a seafaring version of The Black and White Lodge from Twin Peaks? Are these outtakes from a remake of Alien? Because we might as well be in outer space. Spanish cinematographer Mauro Herce has named his debut feature Dead Slow Ahead, probably the most earnest and apropos title in this year’s festival. This transfixing film about a sea journey is also an allegory for capitalism itself, an ideology that finds itself lost at sea, but keeps on keeping on, slow, slow speed ahead…

Mark Peranson

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