6 prisoners standing in front of cooking pots with a banner behind them reading 'Hellhole Bitches' - still from Scrubbers (1982)
6 prisoners standing in front of cooking pots with a banner behind them reading 'Hellhole Bitches' - still from Scrubbers (1982)
Scrubbers (1982)

ACMI Presents


Mai Zetterling | UK | 1982 | M

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In a quasi-followup to Alan Clarke's male-centric Scum, Mai Zetterling delves into the human toll the prison system takes on young women.

Two teenage girls break out of a youth detention centre and are on the run from the police, but things go wrong. Arrested and moved to a new Borstal, it soon becomes clear that one of them sabotaged their breakout, and new enemies are forged.

Originally conceived as a followup and female counterpart to Alan Clarke’s Scum (1979), Mai Zetterling’s return to feature filmmaking veers into new terrain. Penned by Scum screenwriter Roy Minton in what was a very similar story to his earlier film, Zetterling rewrote the screenplay taking it into new directions, much to his disapproval.

The resulting punk-infused feature is Mai Zetterling's only social realist venture, albeit with her signature expressionistic flourishes. As an entry in the Women in Prison genre of films, Zetterling steers clear of traditional exploitation tropes and takes a more compassionate approach, focusing on the human toll of the borstal system, alongside the characters' dignity and resilience. Violent acts are never gratuitous, characters are never Machiavellian and context is everything.

Scrubbers was selected to open the London International Film Festival in 1982 at a time when there was a groundswell of support for Borstal system reform which came about later in the year. The film was the first by a female director to open the festival.

Format: Digital Betacam
Language: English
Source: Handmade Films
Courtesy: Handmade Films
Duration: 90 mins


90 mins




Cinemas 1 & 2, Level 2
Fed Square, Melbourne

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Gemini Rising: The Cinema of Mai Zetterling

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