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Year: 1998
Language: English
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 94 min
Director: Bruce Sweeney
Producer: Bruce Sweeney, John Dippong, Linda Guns
Executive Producer: Stephen Hegyes
Writer: Bruce Sweeney
Cinematographer: David Pelletier
Editor: Ross Weber
Sound: Miguel Nunes, Jeff Carter
Music: Don MacDonald
Cast: Marya Delver, Vincent Gale, Nancy Sivak, Tom Scholte, Benjamin Ratner, Abby Arnold, Babz Chula
Production Company: Dirty Productions Inc.
Dirty, director Bruce Sweeney’s acclaimed follow-up to his award-winning Live Bait (1995) – and arguably his best film to date – is the story of four seemingly unremarkable characters in East Vancouver whose lives are dominated by obsession, repression and sexual deviance. Angie (Babz Chula) is a world-wise fiftysomething who makes a living growing and selling high-grade marijuana. She caters to the masochistic sexual needs of David (Tom Scholte), an MBA student whose obsession with Angie leads him down a path of dependency and self-destruction. Nancy (Nancy Sivak), a depressed shopaholic plummeting into bankruptcy, lives in Angie’s basement where she binges on junk food. And, finally, there is Tony (Benjamin Ratner), David’s roommate, a lumberyard worker whose odd social manner and chronic loneliness complicate his search for love and affection.

A powerful, witty and undeniably honest drama, Dirty offers both an exploration and an implicit critique of social and sexual mores. Sweeney reveals a complex emotional world where the boundaries between human need and aberrant compulsion quickly disappear. The film is the result of a vigorous, improvisation-based rehearsal process. Very much in the style of John Cassevetes and Mike Leigh, Sweeney employed a workshop-based, humanistic and character-driven style of filmmaking, using a cast that has become his stock company of actors. Sweeney uses low light, wide camera angles and an artist’s fine eye to fashion a world where the characters’ flaws and dysfunctions all lie starkly on the surface.

Intent on creating a highly defined sense of realism, Sweeney researched case studies of obsessive-compulsive behaviour at a medical library. He also cast Babz Chula’s own mother – Abby J. Arnold, a retired social worker with no acting experience, who was flown in from Hawaii for the shoot – as Angie’s onscreen mom. Dirty screened at the Toronto International Film Festival®, as well as the Sundance and Berlin film festivals, and earned Sweeney the award for Best New Western Canadian Director at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

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