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The Island of Hungry Ghosts

Gabrielle Brady‘s award-winning documentary about the Christmas Island follows the work of trauma therapist Poh Lin Lee, who treats interned refugees from the Australian camps.


Christmas Island is an Australian territory but it‘s 1550 km away from the Australian continent and around 350 km away from the Indonesian coast. The island‘s population is actually Chinese. There‘s also a huge population of crabs on the island that migrate from the jungle to the ocean every year. Since 2012, the Australian government declared Pacific territories like Christmas Island as “outside the Australian migration zone“ again, a status that it had between 2001-2007. Refugees have had practicaly no chance of reaching Australia by water ever since. Those who do try and are picked up are deported to a camp on the Pacific Islands. There‘s no claim to asylum there. In Gabrielle Brady‘s prize-winning documentary about Christmas Island, the camera follows the crab migration and a ritual of Chinese residents. Every year sacrifices for the spirits of mine workers, considered to be the island‘s first inhabitants, are burned because they didn‘t receive a real burial and can‘t be reincarnated. Both narrative strands about the traditional lifestyles on Christmas Island are in brutal contrast to the experiences that trauma therapist Poh Lin makes. Lin treats refugees and gently gets them to talk. Her patients are hopeless, disenfranchised, and doubly traumatized by their experiences of escape and the camp. Poh Lin‘s work keeps getting harder. During filming the Australian government decides to order the camp employees and suppliers to secrecy. A harrowing film that shows the level of barbarism that is possible in so-called liberal democracies.


Translation: Elinor Lewy


Original title: Island of the Hungry Ghosts
Deutschland 2018, 98 min
Genre: Documentary
Director: Gabrielle Brady
Author: Gabrielle Brady
DOP: Michael Latham
Montage: Katharina Fiedler, Lara Rodríguez Vilardebó
Music: Aaron Cupples
Distributor: Wolf Kino
FSK: 12
Release: 17.10.2019


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