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Scottish Director Wins Best Emerging International Filmmaker at Hot Docs

Published: 10 May 2016

Mike Day with Hot Docs Best Emerging International Filmmaker Award

Scottish director Mike Day has won the Emerging International Filmmaker award at Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in Toronto after his debut documentary feature, The Islands and the Whalesreceived its World Premiere at the festival on Friday 29 April.

The Islands and the Whales, based on the hunting culture in the Faroe Islands and our effect on the environment, was filmed over four years and resulted in the creation of a new sound recording technique.  The documentary looks at the lives of Faroe Islanders who have long hunted pilot whales for subsistence, but whose traditions are now threatened. The award includes a $3,000 cash prize courtesy of Hot Docs.

The Jury commented: “It became clear to the jury that over the course of filmmaking that the director penetrated the lives of his subjects with greater and greater intimacy as time passed. By resisting the temptation to fall back on cliché or stereotype, the director subtly and sensitively presents a culture facing wrenching decisions about its future while maintaining strong ties to its past.”

The Islands and the Whales Director/Producer Mike Day: "I'm very happy, It's a huge honour to pick up this award, and a great start to the film's launch. We were also happy to see it was an audience favorite with theatres full and great Q&As. Many from the audience had tweeted about the sound in the film not knowing it had played there in Dolby Atmos, but most rewarding was to hear all sides of this debate take something away from the film. I look forward to bringing it to Scottish audiences. "

The Islands and the Whales 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. 

The premiere included a showcase in association with Dolby and Skywalker Sound to demonstrate the success of this new technology and technique, made in Scotland.

The documentary also screened at San Francisco International Film Festival IFF where it received fantastic audience reaction. On the screening Panic Manual review, said: “A breathtaking documentary that poses many questions, The Islands and the Whales is a gorgeously shot film that explores the relationship between the people of the Faroe Islands and the nature that surrounds them.”

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

Leslie Finlay, Screen Officer, Creative Scotland, said: “Creative Scotland is really proud that Mike Day has won the award for ‘Best Emerging International Filmmaker’, it is a testament to the depth of documentary film talent we are developing and supporting in Scotland.”

A delegation of eight Scottish documentary makers traveled to the festival to showcase their work and engage with the international screen sector. 

The Scottish delegation led by the Scottish Documentary Institute included eight independent documentary filmmakers; Anthony Baxter (Director/Producer - Montrose Pictures), Felipe Bustos Sierra (Director/Producer - Debaser Filums), Adam Dawtrey (Producer - Bofa Productions), Robbie Fraser(Producer - Pure Magic Films), Nick Higgins (Producer - Lansdowne Productions), Marie Liden (Director - Freelance), Gill Parry(Producer - Connect Film), Aimara Reques (Producer - Aconite Productions).

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival is North America’s largest documentary festival, conference and market. Each year, the Festival presents a selection of approximately 200 cutting-edge documentaries from around the world.

Film Information

The Islands and the Whales, Documentary Feature

Director/Producer: Mike Day

Synopsis: 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.

Technical: Mike Day worked with George Lucas’ Skywalker Sound to pioneer this, with Dolby to promote it, and with Harpex who have developed software especially for this film to translate the ambisonic recordings from a specially designed tetrahedral mic, to Dolby Atmos.

Creative Scotland funding: £70, 600 National Lottery funding through Creative Scotland’s Targeted Screen Fund.

Trailer available here: https://vimeo.com/112625935

Notes to Editors

Mike Day 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. 

Mike 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.

Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here.  We enable people and organisations to work in and experience the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland by helping others to develop great ideas and bring them to life.  We distribute funding provided by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery. For further information about Creative Scotland please visit www.creativescotland.com.  Follow us @creativescots and www.facebook.com/CreativeScotland

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