In the remote North Atlantic where the land yields so little, the Faroe Islanders have always relied on the sea in their hunting for food. But when a professor discovers dangerous contamination levels in the local whale population, the islanders must choose between health and tradition.
Mike Day’s impressive documentary profiles the pilot whale hunters of the Faroe Islands. The film has an elegiac feel.... the film has a similar feel to Michael Powell’s The Edge Of The World. Day fills the film with beautiful imagery of seascapes and mountain ranges but the story he is telling is bleak. In future years, his documentary is likely to be regarded as a record of the final days of a way of life that cannot not be sustained.
An enveloping look at a community whose centuries-old way of life may be ending.
For all the sweeping shots of dramatic Faroese landscapes, it is the small, intimate scenes that are most affecting. Those scenes, in which families discuss their mercury levels around the dinner table and a doctor snips off a lock of a young girl’s hair to test, bring home a sense that this should not just be a battle of ideas, that people’s lives are at stake.
The film’s strength is that these Islanders are rarely made out to be villains. Rather they are unwilling participants in a dangerous race to extinction that they had no real part in.
The Islands and the Whales is nothing short of a masterpiece, and a keystone in raising awareness of environmental issues, as well as providing a nuanced and unbiased account of the overwhelming complexity of it all. It does all this whilst also conveying a sense of the natural beauty of the Faroe Islands, mainly through the fantastic cinematography, which throws most of the scenes into an artistic, almost designed light.
A film that is jaw-dropping in its visual splendor.
This is part of our Daring Docs playlist.
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