Mike Day didn’t initially set out to make a documentary about the people of the remote Faroe Islands and their media-controversial whaling practices. While working on another project, he stumbled across their community and was fascinated by what he found.

Five years later, Day had worked patiently and painstakingly to build trusting relationships with the self-preservationally-closed group of people to gain unique insight into their way of life, their traditions and a fresh perspective on the often non-contextualised practice of whale hunting.

The result is the director’s first feature-length documentary and a piece of film holding moments of beauty, intimacy, shock yet all through a lens of skillfully-wrought objectivity.

We were able to sit down with the director to hear about his near-on obsession with the Faroe people, his diligent and patient approach to drawing out the nuances of their story and ways, as well as the more challenges moments of capturing both the beauty of the environment and the tragedy of its rapid destruction by humanity.

We were also able to speak with Faorese professor Pál Weihe who features in the film and has spent his career studying the effects of increasing levels of mercury in the food the islanders eat and has himself been caught up in debates over preserving tradition versus ensuring long-term health in his community.

By Sarah Bradbury. First published on The Upcoming on 30th March 2018.
Videos: Filippo L’Astorina

The Islands and the Whales is released in select cinemas on 30th March 2018.