Christmas Island’s notorious immigration detention centre is the focal point of this impressionistic documentary, beautifully and innovatively framed around the island’s workers, wildlife and dark past.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2018
On Christmas Island, asylum seekers tell heartbreaking stories to Poh Lin Lee, a trauma therapist at odds with her role at the Australian immigration detention centre. Against the eerie disquiet of the island’s landscape and ecology, this lyrical documentary reveals a deep-seated malaise – one that is expected of the workers who witness the detainees’ suffering, and innately understood by the island’s Chinese and South Asian locals, who perform rituals for those who have died without a proper burial throughout the island’s raw occupied history.
By interweaving between these layers extraordinary footage of red land crabs, whose migration patterns parallel the immigration struggles of the refugees held in limbo, Gabrielle Brady’s film takes on a captivating form. Shaped around hypnotic music and sound design, there’s something genuinely haunting about Poh Lin’s torment at the centre of it all – an inner conflict between her duty to counsel the distressed, and her complicity in the inhumane treatment of already damaged people. It’s as if Brady allows Poh Lin to not only express her anger and frustration, but also act it out as the film’s protagonist – a kind of therapy in itself. — Tim Wong
“[In] Gabrielle Brady’s gorgeous Island of the Hungry Ghosts… reality is suspended and in its place Brady’s surrealist dreamscape, shot breathtakingly by Michael Latham, becomes an all-encompassing tribunal on man’s inhumanity to man in a clandestine landscape filled with lost spirits – ones that are dead, ones that are alive, and those that are a little of both.” — Pamela Cohn, Filmmaker Magazine