From British director Paul James Driscoll comes Nanny Culture, a truly original documentary that lifts the lid on the private yet rapidly expanding world of the professional nanny in the UAE. Against all likelihood, Driscoll and his young filmmaking team gain access to the new home of working nanny Julie C Mcilvenny, affording viewers an incredible insight into the everyday lives of wealthy families in the UAE and the “help” that keeps things running.
The beginning, whether intended to be humorous or not, is stunted. The audience are introduced to a nameless London office that places British nannies all over the world, and interactions with the staff feel scripted and often painfully awkward. It isn’t until Julie is placed with a family and sets off for the UAE that the film starts to find its footing. Thrown into a completely different environment to what she has been used to, Julie finds pressure from all sides to do a great job, and rises to the challenge. Drawn to Abu Dhabi for her recently moved partner and young children, her journey is enough to tug on the heart strings of any viewer.
Some audience members may struggle with the informality of this documentary: personal moments are filmed and production discussions remain uncut. Numerous times Julie looks off camera to her director for advice in confrontational situations, which brings a certain artificiality to the action on screen. A local social media star even turns up in the desert out of the blue, and features on the soundtrack. Yet despite its unusual methods, the documentary overall seems to show at least part of a truthful picture. The kids don’t seem to be acting, and Julie really does work hard to get them into line, as well as keeping other staff members in check too!
It is certainly not a documentary in the traditional sense, but for its odd moments, Nanny Culture does open a window onto a world rarely seen. Culture clashes (“Can you believe she tried to shake my hand?”) and eye-opening trips out to the market and camel races all serve to intrigue and interest viewers and give a taste of what truly lies in store for a British nanny moving farther afield.
Nanny Culture is released on 4th November 2016.
Watch the trailer for Nanny Culture here: