It was one of Australia’s most highly-awarded documentaries of 2018, but chances are you’ve never even heard of Island of the Hungry Ghosts.
Despite its eight award wins – including Best Documentary Film at the Tribeca Film Festival, Adelaide International Film Festival, Valetta International Film Festival, Festival Des Libertes and Darwin International Film Festival – Island of the Hungry Ghosts never made it to the big screen in Townsville.
Local movie buff Glen Hewson said it’s a common story for off-centre films.
“Film distributors often aren’t keen to distribute outside of capital cities if something’s even slightly unusual,” said Glen. “There was a thriller starring Nicole Kidman called Destroyer which just came out, but you wouldn’t know it in Townsville because it didn’t come out here, despite the fact it’s a thriller and it’s starring Nicole Kidman.”
Glen is currently running a FanForce campaign that, if successful, will see Island of the Hungry Ghosts screened in Townsville on 22 April 2019.
About Island of the Hungry Ghosts
The cinematic documentary uses the millennia-old ritual of crabs migrating from the jungle to the ocean on Christmas Island, to explore the stories of much newer inhabitants of the Island – detainees at the Christmas Island Detention Centre. As ‘trauma therapist’ Poh Lin Lee surveys the Island’s powerful and threatening landscape, a sense of disquiet mounts. Local islanders carry out their ‘hungry ghost’ rituals for the spirits of those who died on the Island without a proper burial.
Encountering Hungry Ghosts
Glen first encountered Island of the Hungry Ghosts when Jason Di Rosso interviewed Director Gabrielle Brady on Radio National.
“Everything in that conversation about what the film was, and what it was about, and how it fits in with the new Australian films that aren’t funded through Screen Australia and maybe are a little unusual, sounded really intriguing to me,” Glen said.
What makes this film special
“[Upon seeing it] There are two things about it, I found striking. The first one is the activist angle because a lot of it follows a trauma counsellor and her sessions with people who’ve found themselves in detention for many years. I guess that’s newly relevant in the sense that the Christmas Island Detention Centre is reopening.
“The other angle is that it’s a kind of film we just don’t see a lot in Townsville.
“The Cinema Group brings out some unusual films from different countries but they’re often pretty familiar narratives or structures. This is a little unusual. It’s a documentary, but not a Louis Theroux, talking-head, static-interview kind of documentary. It’s very much the kind of thing you’d like to see in a cinema, in the sense that it has this beautiful lush cinematography of the Island; and the score of these very unusual kind of wire instruments, which maybe don’t sound so good unless you’ve got a good sound system at home. Beyond that, it’s very unique in its structure because it brings together therapy sessions, the history of the Island’s indentured workers, and the crab migrations to tell this story in an unusual way.”
Glen needs to sell 56 tickets through the FanForce program by 12 April, for the screening of Island of the Hungry Ghosts to go ahead.
For more information and tickets, visit Glen’s Island of the Hungry Ghosts FanForce page.