DOK Leipzig Film Festival

Island of the Hungry Ghosts

Island of the Hungry Ghosts

There are places that make us realise instantly that they don’t need us and never did. They exist even if we don’t look at them. Christmas Island, a tiny 135 square kilometre dot in the Indian Ocean, is such a place. It probably first saw humans in 1643. It’s hard to imagine how amazed the endemic red crabs, which were alone with themselves, the tropical thicket and the snow white sandy beaches until then, must have been at this loud-mouthed guest who declared himself the great “discoverer”! The refugee reception centre on Christmas Island is another such place. Since 2001, the Australian government has detained asylum seekers here to deny them their right to regular admission procedures on the continent. The crabs continue amazed.

We are brought face to face with this amazement in the powerful images, sounds and metaphors of Gabrielle Brady’s cinematic reflection on the right to hospitality and forbearance – poetically condensed, emotionally haunting and politically poignant. First in the shape of trauma therapist Poh Lin, who helps the inmates of the detention camp come to terms with their fate while she herself is struggling to maintain composure. Then as the mythical story of the wandering spirits of the dead, told by the Chinese immigrants. And finally as a sprawling, teeming, unimpressed nature that grows and crawls wherever it pleases.

Sylvia Görke

Nominated for the Goethe-Institut Documentary Film Prize

Original Title: Island of the Hungry Ghosts
Country: Germany, UK, Australia
Year: 2018
Language: Chinese, English, Farsi, French
Subtitle: English
Runtime: 98 min.
Format: DCP
Color: Colour
Director: Gabrielle Brady
Producer: Alexander Wadouh
Cinematographer: Michael Latham
Editor: Katharina Fiedler
Music: Aaron Cupples
Sound: Leo Dolgan
Script: Gabrielle Brady

The annotations to the films in the Official Selection were written by the members of the selection committee and guest authors. All quotes from DOK Leipzig 2018 catalogue articles must be identified as such and cite the author's name. All articles where no author’s name is given are production notes.