What does it mean to be an island? What does it mean to live on one? Labocine’s April issue explores the notion of “island” and invites us to reflect on the many wonders that islands and island life present, from rich resources to diverse cultures and traditions which might be under threat in the wake of industrialization and globalization. From Greenland to Nauru to Ellis Island, the notion of island may evoke a plethora of memories, ideas and emotions. As different and far away as they may seem from one another, islands are defined by the very same boundary imposed by nature: water. Being an Island explores the land and water alike, and all forms of life that thrive on islands.
Curated by Ozge Calafato
Ctenophora / Comb Jellies are the oceanic species that recently initiated a radical re-drawing of the Tree of Life — from the bottom up. This video was captured during a full moon upwelling at Hope Island, British Columbia — as raw material for installations that consider alternate evolutionary paths and the idea of life elsewhere in the universe.
Following a nuclear explosion that transforms the voice of all the inhabitants of an island, a Finnish journalist goes there in order to find a hermit with mysterious powers.
A man catches hermit crabs which only live on a certain island in Japan. He releases them in his hotel room. Large numbers of hermit crabs are spread around and they move freely around the room; on the bed, on the desk, on the carpet, and sometimes they get into the refrigerator. Others drop from the shelf and even go into the folds of the bed cover. They act like nothing happened and don’t even care about the man taking a video of them. It is a silent happening, but also extraordinary and ominous.
A curious girl documents the lives of a marginalized group of gazelles on the Saadiyaat Island Golf Club in Abu Dhabi, a city who names translates into “rich in gazelles” in Arabic.
Fumiya Island depicts a robotics research laboratory as a newly discovered island in an archipelago of robotic research labs constituting the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, University of Zurich. The indigenous creatures occupying Fumiya Island as its fauna are quadruped robots developed by researcher Fumiya Iida. The detritus of the lab forms the island’s flora. The narration text is verbatim from the Charles Darwin from Chapter 17 of the Voyage of the Beagle-The Galapagos and is narrated by Andrew Berry, Alfred Wallace historian and an Organismic and Evolutionary Biology lecturer at Harvard University.
An animated portrait of conservation biologist Nick Holmes and his work preventing extinctions on islands.
80% of the world’s extinctions have occurred on islands. In the 1990s, two surfer / biologists decided to do something about that. Today, their company Island Conservation employs dozens of people around the globe, removing feral animals from islands, preventing extinctions and making our world a little more hope-filled. I interviewed their chief scientist under a tree at the IUCN World Parks Congress, and the resulting film is part nature documentary, part fairy tale and chock full of blindingly beautiful, big-hearted science.
In times past an anarchist community of pirates called Madagascar home. It was an island beyond the law and off the map, a place of rogues, booty and bounties. These were outlaws moored on a marooned ecosystem. Set adrift 88 million years ago, the island is a castaway in the Indian Ocean, inhabited by a band of ecological stowaways. In this splendid isolation it has evolved into an unparalleled wonderland of the weird and unique, diverse and unbelievable.
A political coup in 2009 left the country adrift once more — isolated from the international community, deprived of foreign aid and conservation funding. One of the planet’s most precious ecological treasures is home to one of its poorest nations and it raises difficult and complex questions about the relationship between necessity and luxury. Amidst political uncertainty, the island’s fragile and unique ecology is being smuggled out illegally, boat by boat, gem by gem.
Featuring stunning footage from seven winters in the Arctic, People of a Feather takes you through time into the world of the Inuit on the Belcher Islands in Canada’s Hudson Bay. Connecting past, present and future is a unique relationship with the eider duck. Eiderdown, the warmest feather in the world, allows both Inuit and bird to survive harsh Arctic winters. Traditional life is juxtaposed with modern challenges as both Inuit and eiders confront changing sea ice and ocean currents disrupted by the massive hydroelectric dams powering New York and eastern North America. Inspired by Inuit ingenuity and the technology of a simple feather, the film is a call to action to implement energy solutions that work with nature.
On the island of Saipan, a young girl’s mysterious dream about a haggan, or green sea turtle, leads her to investigate the sea turtles that live around her home. Join her adventure to find turtles, which leads to a wonderful birthday wish.
Producers | Stephani Gordon, Laura Sams, Robert Sams
Written, Directed, and Edited by | Laura Sams, Robert Sams
Director of Photography | Stephani Gordon
Cast | Kaya Rain S. Rasa, Jacoba Seman, Becky Furey, Robert Sams, Laura Sams, Jonathan Wolf
Local Turtle Researchers | Tammy Summers, Jessy Hapdei, James Roberto
Marine Turtle Technical Advisor | Irene Kinan Kelly, NOAA Fisheries
Arecibo, the world’s largest radio telescope, is located in Esperanza, Puerto Rico, which is also home to a critically endangered species of parrots. The telescope functions as an ear that is capable of capturing signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. The witty messages from the parrots remain unnoticed.
India’s Sunderbans islands, on the rim of the Bay of Bengal, are threatened by sea level rise caused by global warming. Scientists say the rising water is causing a variety of impacts, including greater erosion — and thus loss of land — and changes in salinity. Among the unexpected impacts of these changes, Royal Bengal tigers appear to be changing their habitats; moving from uninhabited regions designated as a nature reserve to places where they encounter more people. Meet the Indian humanitarian Tushar Kanjilal, tiger expert Pranabes Sanyal and island dweller Anjuman Bibi. Bibi’s house and 7 acres of farmland were carried away in a recent flood. Standing amidst the wreckage of her house, she says her family is now landless. By one estimate the Sunderbans islands will lose 15% of their area by 2020, about 40 square kilometers. Tushar Kanjilal says many people will become landless environmental refugees. He calls on the Indian government and other countries to help save these people. “The problem has not been created locally and it cant be addressed locally,” says Kanjilal.
In a summer of intention and wandering, an Unangam Tunuu elder reflects on landscape and fauna, language students play and teach invented games, and a portrait takes shape of a place through the dim and distant glimpse of a visitor on an island in the center of the Bering Sea.
Filmmaker and photographer, Philippa Ndisi-Herrmann embark on a journey that takes her to the island of Lamu. Her intentions, to make a documentary about the effects on Lamu’s community and the environment as it transforms from an obscure, predominantly Muslim Stone town to a huge Port town.
A gigantic port project and coal plant are the external elements that threaten to disrupt the rhythm of Lamu however the real disruption is that Philippa as we watch her confront a new spiritual awareness. Her commitment to a path of self-discovery takes her to a woman called Raya and her young sons, Ahmed and Abu Bakr.
It is in their home that she finds a narrative anchor and a more personal entry point into the mysteries of this old town. Fragments of Lamu life unfold like chapters in a book: a man scaling a fish, children bathing by a dock, a baptism, a visual diary of a woman not entirely sure of where she is headed. With her deepest instincts guiding her, we see Ms Ndisi Herrmann tackle the contradictions of being a modern, liberal woman embracing Islam and grappling with the complexities of her chosen faith.
An immigrant in New York tries to become a Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus ruber) bird, so that she can travel back to the Caribbean for her child’s birthday party.
Four days after being declared dead, a young girl miraculously find a way to communicate with her mother leading her to find a way save her. With the help of a mad scientist, she and her husband will embark a journey to Haïti.
.TV is a found footage essay film: Voicemails left by an anonymous caller from the future guide us to the remote islands of Tuvalu, a place the global media has described as “the first country to disappear due to rising sea levels”. Surrounded by thousands of miles of open water, much of Tuvalu’s revenue comes from its country-code web extension .TV, a popular domain choice among global video-streaming and television industries. The caller describes how heat, digital screens, and distance gave him no choice but to leave his sinking home and escape into cyberspace where rising waters will never reach him.
The Greek island of Syros is visited by a series of unexpected guests. Immutable forms, outside of time, aloof observants to our human condition.
In Indonesia, multinational corporations have drained millions of acres of swamps and converted them to industrial plantations of oil palm and acacia. Researchers are looking for alternative crops that can be grown in wet conditions, without draining. They’re touting, among other possible candidates, the sago palm, a tree with a trunk filled with edible starch. Some farmers on the Indonesian Island of Sumatra are selling pasta made from the sago palm. For more information, please see this article in the Christian Science Monitor.
In 2018 the Solomon Islands, in the South Pacific, hosted the Melanesian Arts & Cultural Festival, celebrating the country’s 40th anniversary of independence. On neighboring island states, the struggle for freedom continues, as West Papua resists Indonesian occupation and the residents of New Caledonia still live under French rule. In all Melanesian countries, residents face the common challenge of climate change, as rising sea levels threaten to swallow both land and tradition. In this charged context, captivating performers are using their talents to celebrate local culture and draw international attention to their islands’ plight, with the hope of spurring international solidarity and prompting collective action against the perils of a warming world.
McKnelly MegalithCarving starting around 1100 A.D., the Moai of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) weigh up to 82 tons apiece. When Dutch explorers discovered this pacific island in 1722, they wondered at these megalithic figures, asking the inhabitants how their ancestors possibly moved the statues from quarry to site. The Rapanui explained that their ancestors didn’t move the Moai; rather, the Moai walked themselves. It wasn’t until 2012 that Archaeolgist Carl Lipo discovered and proved that the Moai were indeed transported upright, bringing new meaning to the assumed folklore that the statues ‘walked themselves’.
Megalithic civilizations held tremendous knowledge surrounding the deceivingly simple task of moving heavy objects. Much of this knowledge has been lost to us from the past. What if we could learn from this past knowledge to inform contemporary practice with the tool of gravity? This project mines, extracts, and experiments with this knowledge to test what applications and resonance it holds with contemporary digital practice. As an experiment, a sixteen-foot tall megalith is designed, computed, and constructed to walk horizontally and stand vertically with little effort.
In dedication to Steve & Rendy McKnelly.
A creature from outer space comes to earth, landing next to an island that looks something like a petrified tortoise. Her name is Ainhoa, a nine-year-old girl who suffers from chronic asthma and who has taken on the personal challenge of spending a night alone on the island pretending she is an extraterrestrial who has discovered it for the first time.
On a remote island in the future people are preparing for an important mission.
Has Iceland always been a treeless land? Can any forests grow on this island of glaciers and volcanos? The film responds to these questions by telling a story of the forestry in Iceland. It explains why considering the genetic aspects of seeds, cuttings and seedlings is key for resilient forests in the times of changing climate.
You can read more about the afforestation in Iceland here : http://www.euforgen.org/about-us/news/news-detail/regreening-iceland/
A personal perspective on coming home after nearly a decade abroad and finding that something is off in the familiar paradise. A warning that profound change is coming. Change that will influence future generations.
In 10 years everything changes…
Octopus is an experimental, poetic and psychedelic journey about the passage from life to death. Completely shot with a GoPro camera in Bocas del Toro, Panama, Octopus tells the story of a mourning experience portrayed through the drowning of a being who in abandoning reality, leaves the earth and travels underwater into the collective unconsciousness.
The Ballad of Holland Island House is a short animation made with an innovative clay-painting technique in which a thin layer of oil-based modelling clay comes to vibrant life frame by frame. Animator Lynn Tomlinson tells the true story of the last house on a sinking island in the Chesapeake Bay. Told from the house’s point of view, this film is a soulful and haunting view of the impact of sea-level rise.
This short film from Colin Low presents the problems faced by the people of Fogo Island, Newfoundland and what keeps them committed to the land. Witness some of the magic of the island, as seen through the eyes of children, and understand why its inhabitants cling to its shores.
Mbarouk Mussa Omar is from a small East African Island called Pemba. Nearly ten years ago he visited a tiny neighboring islet called Kokota and was shocked by what he saw. Kokota was teetering towards collapse, and Mbarouk knew climate change and deforestation were the culprits. He desperately wanted to help Kokota, but what could one poor man from Pemba possibly do? Kokota: The Islet of Hope tells the story of Mbarouk’s quest to help Kokota. This short introduces viewers to resilient people living on the front lines of climate change and tells the story of how these unlikely heroes have managed to innovatively adapt to a warming climate and reforest their island. This inspirational film promises to leave audiences around the world believing that simple solutions really can have huge impacts.
Mihal Şişko is one of the oldest and last Greeks on Kınalıada, one of the Princes’ Islands in Istanbul. He began working as a sexton at the age of 10. He sees himself as ‘the last leaf on the tree’ of Istanbul’s Greek Turk community. The church connects him with his roots, his past and his mother tongue, but it is a struggle to sustain given the constantly shrinking community.
From the river of doubt to the Mount Sinai
the words blend with landscape.
The map becomes poem, and the island, mysterious.
A restless daughter meets a spirit-fish who gives her pure water but as her family devours the delicious water, they begin to suspect more than the origin of its taste.
To pay for the cigarettes he kept putting on the tab at the local market, so that his father wouldn’t find out, Hamdi goes into a desolate Turkish-Greek home in Büyükada to steal.
A journal he finds at this home makes Hamdi question his conscience for stealing the happy memories of someone else.
A poetic documentary about the lost film culture in small villages on Croatian islands, during the second half of the last century. Six witnesses of the time are remembering their favorite films and events related to their viewing and screening experiences, which marked their lives.
I made the trip on a cargo to the North-Coast of St-Laurent river and I stopped on Anticosti island. It has 200 inhabitants and 150000 deers. The island is famous for its shipwrecks. Who are the ones who come to live here today? What are they fleeing? What are they looking for? And I, what was I searching for?
A hallucinatory journey into the Haitian carnival shot on 16mm. Created in collaboration with the director’s students from the Ciné Institute in Jacmel, Haiti, and based on a poem by young Haitian poet Gabriel Jerry Wood.
A man is drawn into the footsteps of François Mackandal, the historic Haitian slave leader. Following a man trapped in a curse which started centuries ago, this modern fable folds accounts of the past with the resilience of the present.
Dairiki, Kei and Miura got aboard a ship. They talk as they look at the sea and play all whole night. They arrive at an island the following day. They continue their conversation as they walk around the rocky mountains and fores on the island. They see a stone that resembles a human face, an inhabitant in the depths of the sea, a human turn into a fruit. Among these mysterious incidents, Dairiki, Kei and Miura just keep walking. In an unexpected turn of events, Dairiki dies from an unknown cause. After fretting about his death, Kei and Miura cremate Dairiki. Then Kei and Miura start walking around the island again together.
The Italian “refugee island” of Lampedusa is in the firm grip of winter tristesse. The Tourists have left, the remaining refugees fight to be taken to the mainland.
As a fire destroys the worn down ferry, that connects the island to Italy, the mayor Giusi Nicolini and the local fishermen struggle for a new ship. While the refugees are finally transferred by plane, the fishermen occupy the port in order to protest. The island is isolated and as food supplies run out the protesters start to disagree with each other. The coast guard tries to prevent the tragedies of the upcoming season out in the sea, while many islanders try to describe the role of Lampedusa to the never ending stream of reporters that step by on the island.
The tiny community at the edge of Europe is engaged in a desperate fight for dignity, and for solidarity with those who many consider the cause of the ongoing crisis: the African boat people.
The film looks at the “global ecological crisis” from the perspective of the island of Martinique. In reflecting on ecology, the film not only raises issues concerning nature and damaged ecosystems, but, moreover, focuses on spaces of resistance to the crisis in which women and men acknowledge and act from the historical perspective of colonialism, where ecological struggle and the colonial past are intrinsically linked.
A family gathers for a reunion in a house on an isolated island. They are waiting for the last person to join them, but as the evening arrives and he doesn’t arrive, a strange anxiety overwhelms them.
The film gives the audience a rare chance to explore the lives of the Negrito hunting-gathering tribe of this island now threatened with extinction. It is only the third film made on the tribe, and probably the only one ever broadcast. The indigenous tribes of the Andamans are said to be the purest Negrito (an anthropological term) group of people left in the world. It is not yet known how such a small group of Negritoes reached these remote islands and managed to remain so genetically unique. The documentary captures the Onges’ traditional skills of fishing, making dugout boats and of surviving on their own terms with the forests. The film goes on to provide evidence of the havoc wreaked by government policies and the illegal felling of forests in what was declared to be a tribal reserve way back in 1957.
Christmas Island; in the middle of the Indian Ocean, 50 million red crabs make their ancient annual voyage from the jungle to the oceans edge. While thousands of asylum seekers are detained indefinitely in a high security facility. Poh Lin, a trauma counsellor living on the Island of Hungry Ghosts, bears witness to the decline of those being detained.
After having made numerous scientific discoveries, the Belgian expedition boat in Antarctica approached Deception Island and got trapped in ice for close to thirteen months. During that enforced overwintering, the lack of light from the polar night was the source of diseases, depressions and even cases of dementia among the crew members.
Deception Island is a multidisciplinary artwork — between film, performance, social work and installation — which explores the invisible face of a belgian exploration’s myth and develop the narrative of a paradoxical no-travel. That episode, erased from offical history, is silently re-enacted by actors on the New Belgica industrial site, which is the construction project of a replica of the original Belgica (now grounded on the bottom of the sea). It is constructed by prisoners from Antwerp prison, in collaboration with a social workshop. This boat skeleton may be seen as a metaphor of historical reconstruction, always in progress, fragmented, and incomplete.
Deception Island, a former site of whale oil exploitation, is the first Antarctic island that is already an abandoned industrial wasteland. This project probes insularity and isolation at different levels, the exclusive use of travelling throughout the movie physically immerses the visitor in a floating and hypnotic universe, where physical disorientation would echo to a loss of existential orientation, in a mysterious post-industrial world, with no benchmarks.
I began reading Virgil’s Georgics, a 1st Century epic agricultural poem, and knew immediately that I needed to create a visual equivalent about my own relationship to the place where I live, New York City. The film is culled from material I collected at Coney Island, the Lower East Side, Socrates Sculpture Garden in Queens, a Brooklyn community garden and a place on Staten Island that is so dark you can see the three moons of Jupiter. It is a homage to a place many people affectionately and mysteriously call the big apple.
Seagulls hover and dip on the rocky coastline of Gibraltar Point on Toronto Island. Tilting and multiple horizons camouflage the birds, splintering and gathering the lone gull to the flock.
Labocine is an Imagine Science Films initiative to extend our film programming to a broader and more diverse audience. We have over 2,000 film titles from 200 countries for all ages brought to you by artists, scientists, filmmakers and educators.
By experimenting with cinematic form and style, we are committed to provoking scientific intrigue and understanding, always ensuring compelling and well-founded narratives. Periodically, we release Spotlights online. On the first Tuesday of every month, enjoy our issue selections which complement newsworthy science by proposing a surgically curated online festival. From documentary to fiction to lab footage, we hope to always challenge the way you understand, interpret and appreciate scientific ideas and perspectives.
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