In the new documentary DTF, British filmmaker Alan Bailey tries to help his airline pilot friend, “Christian” find love on Tinder after the tragic death of his wife. Bailey, who introduced the couple, hopes to help Christian meet someone new.
It goes terribly. Imagine a train wreck of a reality show, but now escalate that to a plane crash, and imagine a camera crew watching it unfold, making agonizing decisions about whether to cut away — and whether there might be some way to stop gravity.
Christian, whose name is changed and face is scrambled for reasons that will quickly become apparent, has no interest in love. From a Tijuana brothel to a wholesome date in Hong Kong to one very dark night in Las Vegas, Bailey follows Christian through an alternately comical and repugnant spiral. With his flight plan for a sweet documentary severely diverted, he wrestles with the ethical issues of recording Christian’s destructive ways, and how much he should tell the young women Christian arranges dates with around the world.
Alan Bailey is our guest on the latest MovieMaker Interviews podcast, where he talks about how he made the film, the legal fight involved in getting it released, and how apprehensive he would be about being a passenger on any plane Christian is flying. You can listen on Apple or Spotify or here:
In the film, Bailey tries repeatedly to get Christian’s life — and the film — back on track, and ends up with a very different film than he planned. It wasn’t supposed to be called DTF, an abbreviation for “Down to Fuck.”
After a well-meaning foray into the world of sex toys (which Bailey charmingly and misguidedly thinks might curb Christian’s worst behaviors), he himself is a victim of Christian at his most twisted. DTF alternates between drunken disasters and hungover morning-after conversations, but nothing breaks the pattern. Bailey realizes didn’t know the real Christian at all.
The fact that Christian is an airline pilot raises the stakes considerably. His drinking and drug use raise questions about safety, as do the ways he stays just within the bounds of airline regulations. (We watch him do the math to calculate how long he has to wait to fly again after another drunken night.)
DTF also raises yet another warning flag to anyone with any remaining naïveté about dating apps: Yes, the nice, clean-cut international pilot looking for a nice night out in your hometown is indeed too good to be true.
The film has climbed to the top of the UK documentary charts, and earned praise from audiences who have watched it, sometimes wincingly, with hands pressed to their faces. It can reach Sacha Baron Cohen-levels of awkwardness at times, but keeps you thinking constantly about Christian’s motives, Bailey’s filmmaking objectives, and how to balance the sympathy we feel for Christian over the death of his wife with our concerns about his drinking and shock at his behavior.
The filmmakers created a video of people watching DTF that adds another layer of depth of the film: One of the viewers is a relationship expert, whose hopes for a romantic outcome quickly disintegrate. Another is a former sex worker who confirms that an astonishing number of customers seek sex without condoms. An airline pilot who watches the film confirms that many pilots get “lost in the sauce” of the glamour of international travel and the respect their uniforms afford them.
“They start developing these deranged behaviors,” says the pilot, Jason Voudri. “A lot of these people, they get this job, they’re not used to having all this attention… they’re not used to having everything they have now. And so they use it in a dark way that just digs deeper on their dark side.”
Adds the relationship expert, Susan Winter: “Can’t wait to get on an airplane again.”
DTF is now available on demand.