Film Review: Island of Hungry Ghosts

Whilst it may no longer be front page news unless it impacts directly on our shores, the refugee crisis remains one of the most pressing global issues. This has been reflected in recent documentary film making, most notably in Gianfranco Rosi’s Fire at Sea and Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow. These both approach their subject from different angles. However, Gabrielle Brady’s new film, Island of Hungry Ghosts, tackles this vitally important social issue in a unique way.

Christmas Island is located in the Indian Ocean hundreds of miles from the nearest land. Australia has been using its external territory, as part of their ‘Pacific Solution’, to detain those seeking refuge. Poh Lin Lee is a ‘trauma therapist’ who lives with her family on the island, working with asylum seekers in the detention centres. The small population of local islanders carry-out “hungry ghost” rituals to appease those spirits who have not had a proper burial. They roam the jungle at night searching for a home.

Every year on Christmas Island millions of crabs migrate from the jungle to the ocean. Whilst at the same time humans seeking refuge and safety head in the opposite direction. At the heart of Brady’s documentary is the concept of home or a safe haven. Island of Hungry Ghosts focuses on Australia’s questionable human rights record through a poetic and lyrical lens. Those who try to help find themselves at the mercy of political whims.

Island of Hungry Ghosts is out in cinemas from 11 January.

Previous DVD Review: The Escape
Next Film Review: The House by the Sea

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