When a local toxicologist discovers that pollution from the outside world is poisoning the island’s wildlife, the community is put at risk and must grapple with a choice between protecting their health and preserving ancient belief-systems.
Majestic, sweeping cinematography and dynamic, immersive sound design places the viewer squarely at the center of this fractured community that must now come to terms with a rapidly changing socio-ecological landscape.
Director Mike Day objectively showcases the island’s residents and their daily traditions, including a graphic and unflinching depiction of the process of whale herding and slaughter. Whilst disturbing, Day skillfully balances context and sensitivity to convey this loss of life as parallel to the tragic demise of Faroese culture the film explores.
Compounding this, an unexpected visit from celebrity animal rights activist Pamela Anderson and Sea Shepherd stokes the fires of an already complex debate around cultural imperialism, health, the sustainability of food transport and animal welfare issues. A complex film of monumental beauty, The Island and the Whales is an absorbing documentary that tracks a period of uneasy transition in Faroese history.
The Islands and the Whales
A controversial yet beguiling meditation on the relationship between humankind, nature and the ethics of maintaining age-old traditions, The Island and the Whales was filmed over the course of four years in the isolated, Nordic archipelago of the Faroe Islands.
A country commonly covered by snow and shrouded by mist, it is largely comprised of small fishing communities that thrive on a traditional culture centered on food and folklore. Its inhabitants are resourceful hunters but infertile land means that they must subsist on a diet of whales and seabirds that they catch themselves.