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Island of the Hungry Ghosts
Christmas Island is famous for being host to one of the largest annual land migration: that of forty million red crabs scurrying from the jungle to the sea, their journey diligently protected from traffic and other dangers.
Today, the Island also hosts another, much darker presence: a high-security detention facility where those seeking asylum in Australia are held indefinitely. Meanwhile a disquieting sensation grows as local residents perform ‘hungry ghost’ rituals for the spirits of the island’s first human inhabitants: indentured workers from China, Malay and Singapore, whose ghosts may be roaming the jungle still.
Through the eyes of her keenly empathetic protagonist, trauma counsellor Poh Lin, director Gabrielle Brady explores the island’s stunning landscapes, its violent past and its inescapable present. Extracts of detainees’ therapy sessions expose the brutality, isolation and hopelessness inherent in Australia’s indefinite detention policy (a policy enthusiastically embraced by the UK government) while Brady’s camera captures the relentless force of the crabs’ own journey.
As conflicts, climate change and inequality continue fuelling humans’ search for safer spaces, this hypnotic documentary builds a powerful call for a more humane welcome.
We are delighted to be welcoming the films director Gabrielle Brady, and Kate Alexander, Director of Scottish Detainee Visitors, in conversation after the film.