september, 2019

201927sep8:00 pmIsland of the Hungry GhostsGabrielle Brady | AUS, DE, UK | 2018 | Documentary | 94 min | English, Chinese/French w. English subtitles | Berlin Premiere8:00 pm Country:AustraliaGenre:DocumentaryPremiere Status:EuropeanFilm Tags:Film Team in Attendance,With Q&A

Film Info

On an isolated island in the Indian Ocean, land crabs migrate in their millions from the jungle to the sea. The same jungle hides a high-security Australian detention centre where thousands of asylum seekers have been locked away indefinitely. Their only connection to the outside world is trauma counsellor Poh Lin Lee.

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.


“The year’s finest Australian documentary so far, and an imaginative take on what the art of documentary can look like today.” – The Guardian

“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. Island of the Hungry Ghosts is a true discovery.” – Criterion Cast

“The deliberative pace and queasy mood of this film is compassionate and unforgettable, simply one of the best movies I’ve seen this year.” – Entertainment Weekly

“The film is a haunting portrait of the island as a purgatorial realm between the poles of isolation and liberation.” – Slant Magazine

Multi award-winning Island of the Hungry Ghosts is a hybrid documentary that moves between the natural migration and the chaotic and tragic migration of the humans, which is in constant metamorphoses by the unseen decision-making structures.

Filmmaker Gabrielle Brady and therapist Poh Lin Lee have been close friends since 2007. They met while both were living in Mongolia where they worked: Gabrielle was directing a TV series for teenagers and Poh Lin was working as a social worker with a domestic violence NGO. Over ten years they have both travelled and lived on opposite sides of the world, but always remained in close contact. In 2010, Gabrielle travelled to Benin, West Africa for the birth of Poh’s first daughter, and Gabrielle’s god-daughter, Poppy, who is also featured in the film. Gabrielle was living in Jakarta working on a film when Poh invited her across to Christmas Island for a holiday and to catch up. This was the beginnings of their collaboration on Island of the Hungry Ghosts.

Director: Gabrielle Brady
Writer: Gabrielle Brady
Narrative Practice Consultant: Poh Lin Lee
Producers: Alex Wadouh, Samm Haillay, Alex Kelly, Gizem Acarla, Gabrielle Brady
Co-Producer: Julia Niethammer
Cinematographer: Michael Latham
Editor: Katharina Fiedler
Music Composer: Aaron Cupples

Contact: Autlook Film Sales (International Sales)

Official Website | Facebook

Additional Info

Followed by a Q&A with co-producer Julia Niethammer.

Festivals & Awards

Tribeca Film Festival 2018 – Best Documentary Feature

Visions du Réel 2018 – Buyens-Chagoll Award

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018 – Special Mention

Mumbai International Film Festival 2018 – Grand Jury Prize for the International Competition

IDFA 2019 – Amsterdam Human Rights Award

Adelaide International Film Festival 2018 – Flinders University Feature Documentary Award

Valetta International Film Festival – Best Documentary

DOK Leipzig

DOK.fest München

New Zealand International Film Festival
Crested Butte Film Festival 2018 – Best Documentary
Festival des Libertés 2018 – Prix SMART

SAE ATOM Awards 2018 – Best Documentary

FIFO Tahiti 2019 – Prix spécial du Jury

ZagrebDox 2019 – Special Mention from the Movies That Matter Jury

Ozflix Independent Film Awards 2019 – Best Documentary, Best Director (Documentary), Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Sound Design
Festival FReDD 2019 – Panorama Price

and others