Scottish-filmmaker Mike Day has been given a special award by the Faroese Film Institute and the Pilot Whaler’s Association for his film, “The Islands and the Whales”. The film, which premiered in 2016, is an innovative documentary on marine conservation, highlighting the detrimental effects of ocean pollution on the whales surrounding the Faroe Islands.
For the past two years, Mike has been travelling the world promoting his film, which he directed, filmed and produced.
“The film has been all over the world, but the Faroese audience is the most important one,” he says. “It was deeply touching to receive the award. It will be going on my wall, above the computer.”
In the rough and harsh environment of the Faroe Islands, the locals have always accepted what nature could provide. For centuries, we have always been proud to put local food on the table. Because Faroese soil yields very little, the locals harvest the seas. One of these harvests includes the hunting of pilot whales, which the Faroese have done for more than half a millennium.
Now, the long-time hunting practices of the Faroese are threatened by dangerously high mercury levels in whales and decimated seabird populations. Contaminated by the outside world, the whales we capture are toxic. What once ensured the survival of the Faroese now endangers our children. Mike’s film examines the choice between health and tradition and observes the bigger picture of ocean pollution.
“A lot of people have an idea about whaling in the Faroes from misinformation, as even I did a long time ago,” says Mike. “With the film, audiences around the world instantly go on a journey of correction of assumptions, and, ultimately, the film is not about the whaling. It is about the fact that we all live with nature and it looks at what we are doing to it. It shows how important it is for us to listen to the messages that come from it. To pay attention.”
Mike and his film have won multiple international awards, such as the DOC NYC Grand Jury Prize, the Hot Docs Emerging International Filmmaker Award, and Best Documentary at the Phoenix International Film Festival and the Princeton Environmental Film Festival.
A new exploration
Mike is currently working on his next project, but does not know too much about it yet.
He says: “This film is an exploration, as they all are. The Islands and the Whales took five years to film. I did not set out to make an environmental film or even have that message in it. However, when I came to the Faroes and heard the story, and experienced how dramatic it is to see pieces of plastic in birds that’s come from America and Europe, to see that whales were so high in mercury, to hear that some children were born with forty times the safe level of mercury… that was something I couldn’t really ignore. So we go on these journeys and we explore as we go.”
Mike hopes the new film will premiere in 2019.
A trailer for “The Islands and the Whales” can be viewed on Vimeo, where access to streaming of the film can purchased.
This article was originally published on Faroeislands.fo
Words: Levi Hanssen
Pics: The Islands and the Whales