Island of the Hungry Ghosts
A unique and moving meditation on politics, people and primeval nature.
The tiny Indian Ocean Territory of Christmas Island has been a habitat for migrating populations for millennia: originally, for the island’s distinctive population of red crabs; later, in the 19th Century, for phosphate miners from Malaya; and, more recently, for weary people seeking asylum in Australia. Acclaimed filmmaker Gabrielle Brady weaves elements of all three natural and human histories in her remarkable hybrid essay-film, which reworks and elaborates on her award-winning 2017 short film, The Island.
As trauma counsellor Poh Lin Lee – who has relocated her young family to the tiny Australian Territory – gently coaxes the detainees of the island’s high-security facility to tell their often harrowing stories, the island’s more established residents perform ‘hungry ghost’ rituals for spirits whose lack of a proper burial has doomed them to wander its jungles for eternity. Meanwhile, the island’s red crabs once more begin their annual migratory advance across the island to the ocean’s edge.
Featuring an award-winning score by Aaron Cupples, Island of the Hungry Ghosts received the Best Documentary Feature prize at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.
– Roberta Ciabarra - Curator, Film