Cast: Donika Do Tinh, Phạm Anh Khoa
There’s surreal salt in the air in artist Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s stunning film THE ISLAND, a lush mix of speculative fiction, archival footage, and narrative exploration. In a post-nuclear aftermath, a mythological last man survives on the island Pulau Bidong after escaping forced repatriation to Vietnam, until one day he finds a UN scientist washed ashore. Alternating media debates from a frenzied past with a conundrum in an imagined future, THE ISLAND’s two characters struggle over leaving the island and risking uncertain outcomes, as the island slowly terraforms historic monuments into a feral state.
Nguyen’s choice of Pulau Bidong is more than personal. A young Nguyen and his family once lived on Bidong, a tiny uninhabitable island off the coast of Malaysia, which from 1978-1991 hosted a staggering 250,000 refugees in the largest and longest operating refugee camp after the Vietnam War, at some point becoming the most densely populated place in the world.
The liminal quality of refugee history is rarely considered in film, and Nguyen mines these disruptive inversions of scale – fleeing war only to become marooned, massive human densities on nearly invisible spots in the sea. The overall effect is the sensation of land in flux, disorientation that asks questions of placemaking in the face of upending displacement, war, and nationally mandated resettlements – questions which very much continue in the present day.
– Christina Ree
In the midst of anti-immigrant protests, Hoài moves back in with her father after a breakup with her girlfriend, and confronts different experiences of how we make home.