Documentary - The Islands and the Whales

The Island and the Whale

Scottish director Mike Day’s debut documentary feature, The Islands and the Whales premiered last night at Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival...

In their remote home in the North Atlantic the Faroe Islanders have always eaten what nature could provide, proud to put local food on the table. The land yields little, so they have always relied on harvesting their seas.

Hunting whales and seabirds kept them alive for generations, and gave them the way of life they love; a life they would pass on to their children. But today they face a grave threat to this tradition.

It is not the controversy surrounding whaling that threatens the Faroese way of life; the danger is coming from the whales themselves.

The Faroese are among the first to feel the effects of our ever more polluted oceans. They have discovered that their beloved whales are toxic, contaminated by the outside world. What once secured their survival now endangers their children and the Faroe Islanders must make a choice between health and tradition.


The documentary was filmed over four years and resulted in the creation of a new sound recording technique. It is the first film to use ambisonic sound recordings at source and recreate them in cinemas in Dolby Atmos, a system using 128 speakers including vertical channels. This means that cinema audiences will experience the sound as it was in the field surrounded by the documented soundscape.

Director/Producer of the documentary, Mike Day, said: “I brought the film to Hot Docs with the Interdoc Plus programme supported by Creative Scotland in 2012 when it was still in development, so I'm extremely happy to take it back there for the world premiere in the international competition. The film will also be the first documentary feature in Dolby Atmos and we are excited that we will be screening in that format and doing a special presentation with Dolby and Skywalker Sound on the use of this new technique. We want to transport audiences into the world on the screen, so it's been an exciting new tool to work with.”

Mike is a Scottish director and cinematographer. Formerly a lawyer, his debut film The Guga Hunters of Ness screened on the BBC in 2011 and at festivals internationally. He founded Intrepid Cinema in 2009 before heading out into the North Atlantic to document the last ten seabird hunters permitted to continue a traditional gannet hunt in the Scottish Outer Hebrides. This was the first time since 1959 that the hunters had allowed this once secretive tradition to be filmed. After two weeks at sea they returned home with a rare glimpse into this vanishing world.

Mike was listed as one the ’10 Filmmakers to Watch in 2012’ by Filmmaker Magazine, he was one of EDN’s 12 for the Future 2012, the first Scot on the Nordic programme, he is a Sundance Documentary Film Program Fellow, has pitched at Good Pitch 2015 and EIFF 2011, was on the EIFF 2012 Talent Lab, and is supported by the Scottish Documentary Institute’s Docscene programme.

Supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland’s Targeted Screen Funding, the film was also backed by a crowdfunding campaign.



Image - Mike Day, Intrepid Cinema