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Friday, May 13

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U.K., 1982
Directed by Zetterling
Screenplay by Susannah Buxton, Roy Minton, Jeremy Watt, Zetterling
Starring Amanda York, Chrissie Cotterill
35mm print courtesy British Film Institute. Approx. 90 min.

Escaping from their open girls’ borstal, Annetta goes in search of her lost daughter, while Carol is happy to be caught and locked up again – this time in a closed borstal with former lover Doreen. But when Annetta is dragged away from her daughter by police and winds up in the same institution as Carol, she’s out for revenge against the girl who grassed her up. Zetterling’s only venture into something like social realism, SCRUBBERS was shot on location at a Surrey Mental Institute, and suffused with a vital, bawdy energy informed by Zetterling’s visits to borstals and conversations with inmates. “I had found that the girls out there, in the real prisons, had a tough, earthy humor that pleased me and that I could use in the film. Without their black, ironic way of looking at the world, they would never have been able to stand it inside.” Intended as a follow up to Alan Clarke’s SCUM (1979), with a script co-written by Roy Minton.


“The power of SCRUBBERS lies not in the specifics of the narrative, but rather in its eloquent portrayal of the way these women move about their painfully contained world. In one scene we see them marching through prison chanting a litany of daily chores and gestures, a parodic timetable of floor-scrubbing, factory working, and wanking off: the stuff of their lives. This singsong storying of dirty jokes, declarations of love and hate, and rhymed taunts at authority becomes the film’s auditory signature and connects to the rich tradition of female satirists who have always relentlessly blanketed invective on the powers that perpetuate their absence.”
– Barbara Kruger, ArtForum

“ Zetterling accomplishes at least one of her objectives: dramatizing this potentially lurid material without resorting to the usual forms of exploitation.”
- Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“Zetterling celebrates her characters—their rebellions, their singing, their bawdy humor, their stealthy communications...the women in SCRUBBERS have a resilience and a vitality. They shout, they use dirty language, they sing, they communicate through their windows at night and pass things with help of long strings, they get their hands on cigarettes and even drugs if they can, when they can. They never surrender completely to their circumstances.”
– Mariah Larsson, A Cinema of Obsession: The Life and Work of Mai Zetterling

Film Forum