Dir: Perry Ogden. Ire. 2005.87mins.

Perry Ogden's debut feature Pavee Lackeen, which charts the lives of Irishtravellers on the outskirts of Dublin, joins a long list of desolate portraits- including Hector Babenco's Pixote and the Dardennes' brothers' Rosetta- as a harsh and grim indictment of Western society's uncompromising treatmenttowards children.

Shot on DV before a35mm transfer and with a non-professional cast largely drawn from the travellercommunity, Pavee Lackeen is asclose to a documentary as any fictional film can ever hope to be, determinedlyeschewing the least sign of narrative.

Beyond home, whereit has had a strong welcome and won the best first film award at Galway, it islikely to be a tough proposition to market as it unremittingly forces audiencesto face some unpleasant home truths. But it is a title that festivals,especially those with a conscience, ought not to miss.

Ogden, whoassiduously followed the debates of an Irish juvenile court for a couple ofyears before he co-wrote his script, latches on to 11-year-old Winnie Maughan who, like her mother Rose and nine siblings,largely plays herself.

Her father leftyears ago; all 11 now live in a caravan to which Rose has to carry water fromthe nearest broken pipe (their home has no supply of its own).

Rose, as brave andwell intentioned as she is, cannot read nor write because she never properlyattended school, can hardly catch her breath for smoking herself to death andhas only just overcome one bout of alcoholism before facing the next.

Winnie is doing badly at school, gets into fights and isexpelled regularly. She also scours the neighbourhood to thieve andoccasionally sniffs glue with her mates. She watches helplessly as the policeand authorities move her and her family from one dilapidated caravan to oneeven worse, as the law takes advantage of their ignorance and welfareorganisations despairingly concede that they are impotent.

There is no realstory to tie all these events together: rather, random occurrences graduallycoalesce to template a never-changing reality that slowly but surely takes aturn for the worse.

Ogden - a successfulfashion photographer who has worked for the likes of Vogue and The Face -insists that Pavee Lackeen isnot a documentary, describing it more as a combination of cinema-verite and improvisation.

It took him 10months to complete the shoot (financed from his own pocket), resulting in 150hours of material through which to sift and shape the present picture.

But Winnie and her family sadly turn out to be perfect materialfor this kind of picture, superbly fearless of camera and crew and going abouttheir business as if entirely alone.

Handheld digitalphotography consists of very long takes, mostly in close-up and medium range,imposing as little as possible on the performers and resulting in a successfuland disturbing slice of life.

Productioncompany/international sales
An Leoir Films

Irish distribution

Perry Ogden
Martina Niland

Perry Ogden
Mark Venner

Perry Ogden

Breege Rowley

Production design
Susie Isherwood

Main cast
Winnie Maughan
Rose Maughan
Rosie Maughan
Paddy Maughan
Michael Collins
Helen Joyce
Abbie Spallen
Brian Dignam