Pavee Lackeen: The Traveller Girl (2005) Poster

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Unsentimental portrait that confounds expectations.
alastair-326 November 2005
I worried that Pavee Lakeen would fall at one of two hurdles; either do-gooder worthiness in covering the subject matter, or the hokey staged quality often associated with both 'docu-dramas' and use of non-professional actors. No need to concern yourself on either count.

The fiction/documentary thing works to the degree that you forget you're looking at something that isn't pure documentary. The professional actors don't stick out like sore thumbs, and the feel of the entire film is very naturalistic.

In avoiding the urge to moralise, and investing so much time and effort in capturing the essence of the Maughan's day-to-day life, Perry Ogden has produced a real gem of a film. He managed to produce something that takes the qualities of his social reportage photography work, and extends it naturally into cinema. For a first feature, it exhibits nothing of the excessive tinkering you sometimes find. Ogden was blessed with a photogenic lead, but he avoids leaning on the aesthetic crutch he might have done.

The film isn't big on narrative, and don't go expecting plot resolutions, or arcs, or whatever. It's a great intimate snapshot of a girl's life, a family, and (unexpectedly) a city, in this moment in time. The 'issues' that the film touches on are handled with a light touch, and all the better for it.

One warning; I don't know if the film is shown with subtitles outside Ireland, but the accent/dialect of the Travellers will challenge some.
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A Poignant and Realistic Portrayal of the Travellers
paddynd31 October 2005
I saw a screening of the film at the DGA on Oct. 28th followed by a Q&A with director Perry Ogden. The film is shot documentary style with real people rather than actors and while it is scripted, there is a lot of improvisation and "real life" activity going on. The girl who is the focal point of the movie is terrific and it is amazing how matter-of-factly she goes about her daily life in a trailer with no running water. To his credit, director Perry Ogden does not delve into the rich versus poor clichés, but presents a very straightforward look at life for a family on the edge of the social system in modern Ireland. The film won top honors at the Galway Film Festival and has been well-received at other festivals as well.
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An inside view of an Irish Traveller family
rasecz31 March 2006
A documentary-style snapshot of the life of a Traveller family in the docks area of Dublin. (Travellers are the Irish equivalent of Roma gypsies, but those two groups have entirely different histories.) A resilient mother and her ten children occupy trailers, or caravans as the Brits call them, on land owned by the local council. The film primarily follows Winnie, a ten year daughter, but the mother also plays an important role as she fights eviction notices and tries to improve the live of her children. Issues of discrimination, difficulties with the authorities and a social security net that, while well intentioned, can do little for the family are topics that permeate the film. Members of the family and their neighbors play themselves, while actors take up non-Traveller roles. The director should be commended for integrating professionals and non-professionals into a seamless whole.
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Rough and ready look at a lowly based Irish family, whose tale uncomfortably straddles a line between reality and effective dramatisation in a way that 1985's Seacoal didn't.
johnnyboyz19 June 2010
Pavee Lackeen: The Traveller Girl revolves around a young, pre-teen girl from Ireland named Winnie who lives in a rather small stationary mobile home with her mother and family beside a large port. Huge lorries carrying large containers and the noise they make are the dominant sound effects to their lives; the areas Winnie journeys to are limited to in and around the general area of a town centre complete with small shops and tacky arcades; the fights she gets into at school and the trips to the head teacher's office afterwards offer brief moments of incident in her life whilst uninspiring conversations over fish and chip dinners in the middle of nowhere about barely anything at all are the highlights of communication with people of her own age group. This is the life of Winnie, this is the life of the lead in Pavee Lackeen: The Traveller Girl; a 2006 Irish film-come-documentary from Perry Ogden about mobile home dwellers with barely anywhere to go and barely anything to look forward to.

The film is an exciting, contemporary neo-realist piece, with apparently real people instead of actors, outlining the damaging effect that this sort of situation might have on the youth. It additionally raises awareness of the supposed state of the people focused on within, highlighting the state's ignoring in providing housing for those that need it. As more and more containers on the backs of lorries roll by, and the emphasis on the bustling import/export links with the wider extent of the world the state have going on becomes more obvious, the more we feel for those domestically that are being ignored of whom really do need the nation's attention. The world in which the film unfolds is low level and dank, one would exclaim it were dangerous but the area in which those that we follow are based is so devoid of action that you'd be hard pressed to even find someone or something that might be a threat.

Despite revolving around young girl Winnie, no specific gaze is established on her behalf thus rendering the film less of how a child might purvey these surroundings and more of a broader; more collective tale of people in this situation. Their existence is placed in stark contrast with a character known as Marie, an estate agent who mingles with Winnie and her family and who it's crucially established: "doesn't live in a trailer anymore". Marie pops up on occasion with some advice on a notice of eviction, but she also maintains in comparison to Winnie's family, a physically superior presence through her clothing; is quite clearly more informed and certainly speaks more affluently, thus representing a physical manifestation of success born out of this existence and sorts of people we're dealing with. There's a slight sense of Winnie able to follow suit being the young, adventurous and seemingly carefree person that she is; something put in stark contrast to her mother.

Winnie's sense of adventure in exploring and getting out and about on a consistent basis is a ray of light compared to her mother, whom she outranks in this department and ability to come across as comprehensible. Slowly but surely, we see a harmless and rather bubbly young girl sink lower and lower when fights at school spill out into the rest of the world in attempts at shoplifting; clear-cut stealing in the taking of coins form a fountain to quench afternoon boredom and the ill-advised wearing of relatively loose clothing as this young tearaway ventures out with a female companion into the darkness of night amidst an admittedly poor area of docklands surroundings and general lower-lever urbanisation. The risks and results are seemingly oblivious to Winnie, whom even when she wishes to listen to music and dance to it, must realise there is no bedroom nor stereo of her own to hideaway in amongst a plateau of privacy.

The film is a series of incidences and scenes in which it appears Winnie is attempting to find herself; to find some kind of identity running parallel to a strand more dedicated to plot, scenario and apparent cause and effect in that the local council enforcers whom have the power to do so wish to move Winnie and the family's mobile home out of the docklands zone. The question as to whether this is good or not for the family hinges on whether they're eligible for council housing. I preferred Winnie's scenes and general segment more, in that her attempting to find her own 'self' sees her hold dresses that she swipes out of large skips housing clothes people have decided to give up for charity up to her body so as to test a friend's opinion on how it looks. On other occasions, she ventures into immigrant owned video stores to quandary about items such as the videos and films as well as a separate hair salon to ask of the hair extensions. This might be seen as a furthering of one's attempt at identity, this time through a physical extension of the body in the manipulation of one's hair decorations to form a personification of some kind.

Perry Ogden has achieved something rather extraordinary, taking a camera and venturing out into the Irish docklands and surrounding area, in the process finding a family; shooting them for what they are; capturing their predicament plus whatever general strife comes their way and managing to inject some sort of brooding sense of tragedy into the proceedings of a young girl's decline in well-being. At one point, a number of Winnie's siblings attempt to sing together within the confines of the mobile home each of them share whilst in-front of Marie the estate agent. They sing badly, that is until a chorus of singing in unison brings them all together: the tune is an old favourite of most in "I Will Survive", something that stands eerily and somewhat falsely in contrast to just about everything else.
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Pavee Lackeen
holly-mellors17 February 2006
I found the film interesting, but a one sided insight into the life of Irish travellers. It seemed to tick the stereotypical view that a lot of people who are not informed about travellers would think. Poor, dirty, ill-educated, drunk, thieves.

In reality travellers are like any other race there are the rich and the poor the good and the bad. This film seemed to be a one sided view.

At the screening Perry Ogden said that the young girl Winnie asked him to take out the petrol sniffing scene and he had convinced her and her mother to keep it in. Winnie had been worried that the scene would portray her as a bad person and that no one would want to marry her. For a 10 year old girl to speak out to a director I think was very brave and he manipulated her to keep the scene in for his own "artistic licence".

Also the father figure in the film is not around, the opening scene sees the mother collecting money from a pawned wedding ring. perry Ogden said he left this open to interpretation that perhaps the father was dead or had "gone off". In traveller culture the fathers/husbands do not just "go off" (the reality was that the father did not want to be in the film) as there are extremely high values placed on family.

Overall the film was interesting but it concerns me that the film was quite negative about travellers in Ireland and that the director changed aspects of reality to add more drama to the film which was supposed to be a realistic insight.
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Lack of budget is no excuse for lack of structure
Balthazar-521 January 2006
Let me say, straight away, that I am always suspicious of films that set themselves among the most under-privileged. There seems, for the most part some element of directors gazing down with virtuous intent from a great height onto these poor sods.

Pavee Lackeen suffers less than most from this syndrome, but it falls into the trap of thinking that a slice of life is the same thing as a slice of cinema. It isn't.

Two things stick out like a sore thumb in this film. The first is that it has no dramatic structure. We join the family of travellers on whom it focuses at, apparently, some random moment, some things happen, and then we leave them at another apparently equally random moment. On the way, have we seen character development? No. Have we been given any insight into the human psyche? No.

What we have had is a glimpse into the life of a young traveller girl, who is full of fun and life, and has lots of problems. We are sorry for her (we were probably that within five minutes of the start). We have learnt a few things about the way that travellers live in outer Dublin - but less than we might have by reading a well-written newspaper article.

At the screening I attended, the director, a nice man and former still photographer, declared himself to be in the line of film-making that came from Alan Clarke and early Ken Loach - that later Loach films, he thought, were too contrived. Hmmm. Yes. That says it all.

Here we have a naive belief that to film 'reality' without interference is art if that reality features the under-privileged. It isn't.

The director pointed out that it was shot on a minuscule budget (£320,000) - and, in fairness, he wasn't saying that this meant we had to make allowances.

It would be my belief that one of the most important things in a film is what is taken out. I don't mean edited. I mean that as much of what we see must be expressive and not confuse the viewer as to what each shot is about. Here, everything is cluttered and unstructured. I am not looking for 'beautiful squalor', but I am looking for some obvious attempt by the filmmakers to direct my eyes in a particular direction. I don't see it.

The 'acting' by these mainly non-professionals is fine. The archetypes created as characters are fine. But there is no structure and no visual strategy... that is, until the last shot, when the camera which has been jiggling about like a yo-yo for the rest of the film, is allowed to come to rest and in a single shot, say more about the plight of the characters than the previous 90 minutes - and for the first time, it uses non-diegetic music!! Great!
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A Small Wonder of a Movie
atyson12 April 2006
This is a 'slice-of-life' drama about a young traveller girl (Winnie) and her family in contemporary Ireland. Most of the (in)action takes place in a kind of lay-by next to a building site off a major road. You will probably forget that it is fiction - it's main characters are a real family and it is shot with a rough-and-ready documentary feel. Much of the dialogue is hard to catch and is spoken against a backdrop of traffic noise (probably as much a reason for showing it in the UK with subtitles as the issue of deciphering the accents). That said, there is visual poetry in much of the shooting (for example, the sequence where Winnie is ferreting around inside the Clothes Bin or where the girls go for chips).

The real strength of the movie is in what it refrains from saying: it scrupulously avoids sending a 'message' to anyone about anything. It simply presents - and is utterly convincing for that reason. The life is grim, but these people are not victims, they are not conspicuously persecuted by the authorities (the police and Council seem half-embarrassed to be issuing an eviction notice at the trailer door). Drink and solvent abuse and theft are presented more as the mere distractions of a daily routine rather than cause or effect. There isn't a lot to choose between teachers, social workers or even a traveller activist. These interested parties seem disengaged from the family's lifestyle and to be simply performing roles which barely impact upon the travellers' circumstances.

Although every opportunity for 'kitchen sink' plot development is thankfully eschewed, the trip to the standpipe for water which bookends the movie helps to suggest a cumulative worsening of the circumstances of the family.

I read somewhere that the director is influenced by the director Alan Clarke and you can see that. It has that directness of observation and honesty about human behaviour. Whatever, I look forward to the next feature by this director.
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plainly lacking
joegreene3224 November 2006
Having read some rave reviews and comments on this film, I actually bought the DVD. What a disappointment. Has everyone been watching the same film. Nothing happens. A young traveler girl wanders from scene to scene, the non-narrative stretched to near breaking point. If anything, the style and technique are lifted straight from the Dardenne brothers film Rosetta, albeit without the gripping story and plot. What we have here is a con job, mutton dressed as lamb. This slight drama masquerades as social comment, but there is an uneasy feeling as you watch it that a middle-class professional fashion photographer could be accused of exploiting the travelers. I can only deduce that it appeals to other middle class liberals who want to get down with the tinkers, but who wouldn't lift a finger or inquire further on their behalf. Above all, it's boring. High point the mother's performance, low point the long shots where nothing happens. The piano music at the end says it all. Warning: Brendan Gleeson is not in this film.
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a lack of structure can be great
i8gilbertgrape8 November 2006
A slice of life can be great cinema, because it can capture something that seems intrinsically real and tangible. Pavee Lackeen is funny and strikes me as realistic.

The film does not need an insertion of dramatic structure because I think it would then become contrived and false. The structure of the film is loose, but this definitely works. The focus isn't compromised, and as an audience we are compelled not by manufactured structure but by the rawness and reality of 'The Traveller Girl's' life (shaky, unsteady, boring, sad). Winnie and her family shine, a cracker of a film.
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An Ireland few of us would recognize
Martin Bradley14 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Perry Ogden's superb "Pavee Lackeen" looks and feels like a film from Eastern Europe but it is, in fact, Irish although set in an Ireland few of us who live here would recognize. The title means 'the traveller girl' and the film, which is virtually plot less, is set amongst the travelling community, those people who were once simply called gypsies. The cast are non-professionals and, for the most part, they are playing themselves. Indeed the film is much closer to a documentary, albeit a staged one, than it is to fiction.

The central character is Winnie and she is 'played' by Winnie Maughan. Of course, she isn't acting any more than anyone else is acting or you might say other members of the cast are acting out their parts and acting them very badly. Winnie, however, is different in that she has a 'real' personality that has nothing to do with her being an actress; (let's just hope she has a life and let's hope no-one ever tries to talk her into any kind of 'acting' career).

What plot there is concerns the eviction of Winnie's mother Rose from her caravan - and that's it. There are no big dramatic moments or revelations. Ogden's camera simply observes these people as they live through the drudgery of their daily lives, lives lived very much on the margins of society. Apart from the travellers themselves we see very few native Irish people. Ogden emphasizes that Ireland is now a multi-cultural society populated by people from around the globe. Winnie finds affinity with these people in that she, too, is an outsider, a stranger in her own land. Obviously very intelligent, her future will depend on her breaking away from her family. (She has a brother in gaol but he talks to her of going 'straight' when he gets out and getting his own flat). Whether she does or not is a different matter. The last shot in the film is of Winnie fetching water from a tap some distance from the caravan she calls home so that she can make her mother a cup of tea. It is an image both bleak and haunting and is perfectly in keeping with Ogden's vision of an Ireland far removed from the Celtic tiger.
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