Docpoint – Helsinki Documentary Film Festival


Play Dead!

Matthew has had diabetes since he was a child. The disease is well under control, but he is gnawed by fear: how many healthy years does this father of two have left? Matthew’s uncle Harvey lost his leg and eventually his life to the illness, and Matthew fears this is a glimpse into his own future.

Play Dead! is the third long-form documentary film from prize-winning Canadian director Matthew Lancit. In diary format, the film follows the lives of Lancit, his wife, and their growing children over several years in their Paris home. Lancit deals with his potential physical deterioration through roleplay.

Lancit disguises himself as a vampire, a zombie and a one-legged pirate, amongst other roles. The special effects and theatrical makeup in the film are intricate and at times disturbingly realistic. Blood pumping through veins and a closeup of a beating heart are only a few examples of classic body horror imagery used here to concretely bring to life the destruction this silent killer of a disease causes to the body from within.

Lancit’s wife and kids take part in his games, even though the looming presence of death brings a morbid aura on these moments together. The result is a revealing self portrait which is at times unsettling but also tongue in cheek and humouristic.

Ida Kumpulainen (translated by Virpi Sumu)

Content warning: blood

Director Matthew Lancit is present in the screening of Play Dead! on Friday, Feb 2.

Original Title: Fais le mort!
Language: English, French
Subtitles: Partially subtitled in English
Length: 80 min
Age Limit: K12
Year: 2023
Production Country: France, Portugal

Director: Matthew Lancit
Producer: Simon P. R. Bewick
Production Company: Quilombo Films
Screenplay: Matthew Lancit
Editing: Ariane Mellet, Matthew Lancit
Cinematographer: Matthew Lancit, Armel Hostiou
Music: Etienne Nicolas
Sound Design: Jan Vysocky