About

Island of the Hungry Ghosts is a feature length documentary film set on the remote Christmas Island.

Poh Lin is a trauma counsellor living on the remote Christmas Island with her young family. Poh Lin’s job is to work with people trying to seek asylum to Australia who have been detained in a high security detention facility, deep within the islands jungle.

The island is one of the last discovered places on earth, with humans having migrated to its shores less than a century ago. The original inhabitants are the forty million land crabs. Pulled by the force of the full moon they begin their epic odyssey from the island’s jungle to its rugged coastline.  

As Poh Lin and her family explore the island’s powerful and threatening landscape, a disquieting sensation grows. Local islanders carry out their ‘hungry ghost’ rituals for the spirits of those who died on the island without a proper burial. They make offerings to appease the lost souls, who are said to be wandering the jungles at night without a home.

In the intimacy of her therapy sessions, Poh Lin feels the oncoming dystopia, as the mental state of her clients begin to unravel.

Crew

For full crew biographies please see here.

Director & Writer: Gabrielle Brady
Cinematographer: Michael Latham
Sound Designer: Leo Dolgan
Composer: Aaron Cupples
Editor: Katharina Fiedler
Narrative practice consultant: Poh Lin Lee
First AD: Zena Kells
Script Consultant: Lillah Halla, Francoise Von Roy, Noelia Lacayo
Researcher: Florian Kunert
Research Advisor: Arthur Floret
Producers: Alex Wadouh, Samm Haillay, Alex Kelly, Gizem Acarla, Gabrielle Brady
Co-Producer: Julie Niethammer
Produced by: Chromosom film Germany, Third film UK, echotango Australia, Various films Germany
Additional Editor: Iara Rodriguez Vilardebo
Editing Consultant: Benjamin Mirguet
Field Producer: Dani Yannoulis
Website design: Miranda Grant
Color grade: Aline Biz
Post Production house: Moonlight Barcelona
Supported by: British Film Institute (UK), WDR (Cologne), Film- und Medienstiftung NRW (Cologne), MBB (Berlin), Bertha Foundation and Screen Territory (Australia)

Reviews & Awards

Awards:

  • Best Documentary Tribeca Film Festival 2018.
  • Prix Buyens-Chagoll Visions du Reel, Switzerland 2018
  • Best Documentary Official Competition at Valletta Film Festival 2018
  • Special Jury Mention Edinburgh Film Festival 2018

Reviews (selected):

The best documentary award goes to a film that demonstrates extraordinary mastery of the full symphonic range of cinematic tools: cinematography, editing, score, sound design and, perhaps greatest of all, an exquisite use of metaphor. To a film that moved us deeply, impressed us immensely and made us feel we were witnessing nothing less than the emergence, fully formed, of a major new cinematic talent, we are thrilled to award the best documentary award to Island of the Hungry Ghosts. – Tribeca Jury

“[A] poetic profile of the forgotten asylum seekers detained on Christmas Island… Lush cinematography… Timely subject matter.” – Laurence Boyce, ​Screen International

“Gorgeous… [A] beautifully rendered portrait of an alien landscape… 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.” – ​Pamela Cohn, ​Filmmaker Magazine.com

“A fascinating metaphoric collision.” – ​Scott Macaulay, ​Filmmaker Magazine.com

“[A] standout… This is a film that lingers with you long after it’s gone.” – ​Patricia Aufderheide, ​Documentary.org

“Beautifully shot by cinematographer Michael Latham… Such are the luscious images that the film at times feels more like fiction than documentary. The mixture of aesthetic, subject, island location and narrative arc echo the work of Berlin Golden Bear winner Gianfranco Rosi and his Fire at Sea… Affecting and haunting.”  – ​Kaleem Aftab, ​Cineuropa

“A haunting documentary… This film is a powerful call for change… Relevant viewing.” – ​Phil Guie, ​Film-Forward

“With profound spirituality… Island of the Hungry Ghosts is one of the year’s most impressively made documentaries, a film that’s as occasionally surreal as it is persistently moving. The cinematography is absolutely top tier, which plays heavily into the film’s overarching mood and sense of atmosphere. A contemplative, melancholic documentary looking at the balance between beauty and despair, Hungry Ghosts is a true discovery.” – ​Joshua Brunsting, ​Criterion Cast.

“A tapestry of ideas about freedom or the lack of it… Brady’s camera is respectful, hanging back and letting these people speak for themselves… The sense of isolation is enhanced by Aaron Cupples’ otherworldly, experimental score… The effect is eerie and the tone befitting the film’s themes and the island’s essential wildness. Brady doesn’t want us to feel good, she wants us to feel the connection. She succeeds.” (​★★★★ out of 5) – ​Amber Wilkinson, ​Eye For Film

“There is a true ruminative beauty here in Brady’s impressionistic portrait of this haunted island out of time.”  – ​Chris Barsanti, ​The Playlist

“A documentary overflowing with empathy, poetry, and elemental power.”  – Hubert Vigilla,​ Flixist

“The magic of documentary filmmaking comes alive in this film… A thunderstorm of sensation… A powerful statement.” – Briana Atkins, ​The Knockturnal

“Hauntingly beautiful Island of the Hungry Ghosts combines multiple narratives…into one glorious whole… Powerful cinema… A mesmerizing work of visual wonder, the breathtaking images forming an evocative setting for a vital discussion of human rights… A rapturous viewing experience… A stunning, visceral first feature, announcing the director as a major talent to watch, and watch her movie you should.”  – ​Christopher Llewellyn Reed, ​Hammer To Nail

“A mesmerizing, elliptical work of cinematic wonder, filled with breathtaking images, the whole an evocative setting for a vital discussion of human rights… Announces a great new cinematic talent from whom we should all hope to see more in the future.”  – ​Christopher Llewellyn Reed, ​Film Festival Today

“Brady has made a what is ultimately a universal film…
One of the more haunting films at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.” – ​Steve Kopian, ​Unseen Films

“Haunting.”  – ​Helen Kaplow, ​Indie NYC

“Exquisitely shot… [A] moving and inclusive doc… Crafted as a stylish, contemplative and haunting exploration on the Island itself (known as a place where unburied first-explorers still wander the land), Brady conceived a visually enriched metaphor on the depths of nature and the human condition.” – ​Roger Costa, ​Brazilian Press