Documentary and fiction collide in this tale of a mysterious stranger's arrival in a Scottish town
Thrusting a mysterious stranger by the name of Bodkin into the small Scottish town of Forres, Kaweh Modiri’s Bodkin Ras mixes fiction with fact in an experimental film that blurs the boundary between documentary and drama.
As Bodkin strives to assimilate himself into the tight-knit community, the locals are given time in front of the camera to describe their town while offering their reactions to the arrival of the tall, dark newcomer. Bodkin acts as a focal point for the town, turning it inward to observe the newcomer and conversely allowing Modiri a fresh view on their world from this outsider’s vantage point. Forres is a small town like a thousand others in Scotland, immediately relatable to any native. Gradually though, Modiri is able to peel away some layers of its familiarity to reveal the complexity and pain beneath – as a documentary shedding light on the inner drama in a place where we might assume nothing happens, Bodkin Ras is highly effective.
The fictional side of Modiri’s experiment, however, doesn't hold its end up quite as well. The narrative he constructs for Bodkin gives his protagonist little to do beyond stand around looking handsomely haunted, building eventually into a clumsy finale that feels like pantomime compared to the grimly powerful stories that surround it. Nearer the end there's an attempt to wrap the raw material the townspeople provide around Bodkin’s story to form a statement about the nature of human violence, a mishandling that sacrifices the complexity of the documentary elements and squanders their power.
Bodkin Ras screens in Glasgow Film Festival: 24 Feb, GFT 3, 6.15pm | 25 Feb, CCA, 3.45pm