Hotdocs, Camden IFF, AFI DOCS, Edinburgh IFF

Director's statement

Director's statement

I first met Faroese sailors during the making of my previous documentary while stormbound on a boat in the gales northwest of Scotland. They told me about their hunting, and believed it was ending, but the further I explored the story the more complicated it became, and it was about far more than just the local whaling. The whales were not believed endangered, and the hunt was deemed sustainable, not hunted for commercial greed, but for food which was distributed communally for free. However, we learnt that a local doctor, now a professor and internationally respected toxicologist, discovered that the whale meat is toxic, polluted from faraway industrialised nations. Coal burning power stations and gold mining accounted for the most part of the mercury and it wasn't just whales that were effected, many species of fish including tuna, swordfish and halibut showed very high levels. There was an important message that these islands and the whales had for us all.

This is part of our Daring Docs playlist.


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.

Hollywood Reporter

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.

Sierra Magazine for the Sierra Club

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.

Film Experience

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.


See more



Art & Images

Other titles you might like

How Love Won

History and lives are changed in the fight for marriage equality in Minnesota.

Documentary, LGBTQ


• 82 min

417 Miles

After 10 years apart, two best friends reunite for a road trip they will never forget.

Drama, Foreign, LGBTQ


• 74 min

Prestige Ingredients

A stifled, young Hollywood actress (Alia Shawkat) takes an unlikely job with an inspired rebel chef in Paris.

Comedy, Drama, Romance


• 26 min

Buried Above Ground

Three Americans battle post-traumatic stress disorder in this documentary feature.

Documentary, Drama


• 78 min

Movie Quiz

Deciding what to watch? Take our personality quiz and we’ll curate a set just for you. Get ready to meet your match.

Take the quiz

Deciding what to watch? Take our personality quiz and we’ll curate a set just for you. Get ready to meet your match.

Movie Quiz Take the quiz
Maxed out on reruns? Tired of endlessly searching for a movie? Let’s help you discover some fresh new voices.

Quiz Progress

{{ question.text }}

Calculating your results

Pick a place to start!

Save one (or more!) films from your results.

Watch ‘em free.

You've got a whole month to watch.

Find your own faves!

The results are just the tip of the cinematic iceberg! Continue your journey through our library with unlimited access for plans starting from $2 a month. No strings attached.

Show My Results

Seed amp; Spark

Your subscription is now active. Enjoy unlimited streaming on Seed&Spark!

Hotdocs, Camden IFF, AFI DOCS, Edinburgh IFF



Basic Info

Before we get started, please confirm the following:

By starting a project you agree to Seed&Spark’s Site Guidelines.



Basic Info


Saved to Watchlist

Way to go, you just added something to your watchlist for the first time! You can find and view your watchlist at anytime from your profile.

Pay what you can.

Watch wild and wonderful movies and shows from independent filmmakers and get a new handpicked playlist every month.

Subscribe to Seed&Spark