Director: Bruce Sweeney
Screenwriters: Bruce Sweeney

Institute History

  • 1998 Sundance Film Festival


The renaissance that has revived Canadian cinema over the last decade gets another significant thrust forward with Bruce Sweeney’s Dirty. What appears to be, at first glance, a fairly standard working-class drama about four rather unremarkable characters develops into a powerful and unvarnished portrait of obsession, deviance, and repression.

In a small town in western Canada, we encounter Nancy Thigpen, a young woman living in the downstairs apartment of a house owned by Angie, a fiftyish mother of two grown children. Angie is having a relationship with David, a rather conservative medical student twenty years her junior. Lastly, sharing David’s apartment is Tony, a twenty-something lumberyard worker, seemingly shy, unfocused, and interested primarily in getting high. As the story unfolds, their day-to-day lives reveal the tenuous boundaries between normal and aberrant, perhaps even perverse, needs and desires. Sweeney’s tale, while focusing on real-life dilemmas and problems, masterfully interweaves the usually taboo world of fetishes, raw sexuality, and compulsion. With a gritty naturalism that underscores the vividly unsentimental tone of its narrative, and a sterling set of performances that are strikingly realistic, Dirty is a film which offers both an exploration and an implicit critique of social and sexual mores.

Bruce Sweeney, Director
Bruce Sweeney, who won the prize for Best Canadian Film at the 1995 Toronto International Film Festival for his debut feature Live Bait, was drawn to filmmaking after initially studying visual art. A master class with Britain’s Mike Leigh led Sweeney to develop his own acclaimed vérité, character-driven, workshop-based filmmaking style. Born in northern Ontario, Sweeney also won several awards for his short film Betty and Vera Go Lawnbowling.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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