7.2/10
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1 user 18 critic

Island of the Hungry Ghosts (2018)

Millions of crabs journey across Australia's Christmas Island in one of the planet's largest land migrations.

Director:

Gabrielle Brady

Writer:

Gabrielle Brady

Star:

Poh Lin Lee
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7 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Poh Lin Lee Poh Lin Lee
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Storyline

Located off the coast of Indonesia, the Australian territory of Christmas Island is inhabited by migratory crabs travelling in their millions from the jungle towards the ocean, in a movement that has been provoked by the full moon for hundreds of thousands of years. Poh Lin Lee is a "trauma therapist" who lives with her family in this seemingly idyllic paradise. Every day, she talks with the asylum seekers held indefinitely in a high-security detention centre hidden in the island's core, attempting to support them in a situation that is as unbearable as its outcome is uncertain. As Poh Lin and her family explore the island's beautiful yet threatening landscape, the local islanders carry out their "hungry ghost" rituals for the spirits of those who died on the island without a burial. They make offerings to appease the lost souls who are said to be wandering the jungles at night looking for home. In the intimacy of her therapy sessions, as Poh Lin listens to the growing sense of ...

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Genres:

Documentary

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Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook | Official Site

Country:

Germany | UK | Australia

Language:

English | Persian | French | Mandarin

Release Date:

11 January 2019 (UK) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Third Films See more »
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Runtime:

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User Reviews

 
Powerful poetic portrait of an island
20 December 2018 | by Chris_KirkSee all my reviews

ISLAND OF THE HUNGRY GHOSTS confronts the impossible situation of the refugee detention centre set up by the Australian government on Christmas Island. It is illegal for any employee of the centre to talk about or report anything about the conditions there. So rather than reportage about all the facts and all the horrors, the filmmaker has chosen instead to make a portrait of the island itself, using metaphor to convey the reality of the detention centre.

It is migration time for the island's red crabs and they are everywhere, most inconveniently on the road, and roadblocks must be set up to protect the crabs from being squashed. I suppose it is natural for beings to migrate in certain conditions.

The local Chinese people, who were the first humans to arrive in the Island 100 years ago, believe there are ghosts on the island who are in between worlds, people who have died but not yet passed on. They burn regular offerings to the ghosts to placate them and help them pass on.

The main character of the film is a sensitive and sympathetic woman who works on the Island as a trauma councilor, guiding the patients gently through the immense pain and confusion of what they have experienced and what they are being forced to live. The sessions with her patients are very moving and her love for them bleeds through into her family life, as the realisation of her powerlessness overwhelms her against the secrecy and bureaucracy of the institution that has no interest in helping these people.

Somehow all this is not depressing. It's delicacy and integrity is such that we must have hope that those concerned will realise that humans are as important as crabs and ghosts.


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