The Isle of Seals
Edmunds Jansons (2014) 6′

Film Title: The Isle of Seals (Roņu sala)
Written, directed and animated by Edmunds Jansons
Animator: Mārtiņš Dūmiņš
Music: Jēkabs Nīmanis
Sound Design: Ģirts Bišs
Producer: Sabīne Andersone
Financial Support: State Culture Capital Fondation

Animation Technique: 2D Computer Animation
Lenght: 6’
Shooting Format: HD
Screening Format: DCP / H.264 / ProRes 422
No dialogues and subtitles
Screen Ratio: 16:9
Colors: B&W
Sound: Stereo
Country of Production: Latvia
Year of Production: 2014

Synopsis

In the middle of a grey sea there is a grey isle. On this grey island grey hunters live. The life is simple and harsh. Seals and hunters live together in a cruel balance. One day, the Photographer arrives to document this everyday life. For him it turns out to be deadly complicated.

Director’s statement

Each film has its own story of how it began. One begins with some sort of event while another with a vivid visual image. “The Isle of Seals” began with a peculiar place and its environment. I was preparing for an exhibition in Tallinn and decided that the central piece would be an animated film. But I couldn’t come up with an idea. I wanted something connected with both countries – Latvia, where I live, and Estonia, where the exhibition took place. Then, as a result of a random conversation, I found myself exploring the church register of Ruhnu Island. Ruhnu Island means “the Isle of Seals” in Estonian.
This island is located in the Baltic Sea, near the Latvian and Estonian border, historically inhabited by Swedish seal hunters. Hunters have lived on the island for centuries – from the very beginning, when the island belonged to the Swedes, and throughout the political changes, when the island was controlled first by Russians, then by Germans and finally by Estonians. This story fascinated me with the indifference with which the indigenous people of the island had responded to all these historical political changes.
Even during the war, when no one bought the fat from the seals they hunted, they continued to live at their usual pace, knowing or perhaps hoping that somehow everything would work out. And it did – several tons of fat accumulated during the war time was bought by the Estonian government, which thus gained the favor of the islanders and began to rule the island. Although the documentary material was the initial impulse behind the work, the film has quite little to do with the real situation on Ruhnu Island. Only the hunters are left in the film, and they continue to do their own thing and live their lives regardless of whatever goes on in the world. The island and its distinctively-thinking inhabitants are just a background for the film. To me, the main character of the film is the photographer. The film is an absurd comedy about a photographer as a media representative with an unstoppable desire to show the world around him inside a frame of preconceptions. In general, it is about the failure of media to record objective reality. To me as an author, this film is also a reflection on animation. I’m still trying to understand what animation is or is not. It is an attempt to explore the language of animation and understand the importance of the story, characters and design in animation. How do you facilitate the viewer’s perception by giving up anything superfluous without crossing the line beyond which simple becomes primitive? In this sense, “The Isle of Seals” is an experimental film to me – a viewer-friendly experi-mental film.

Awards

Special Prize of Jury at Sommets du cinéma d’animation, Canada, 2014
The Special Mention by Alexandra Hetmerová at Fest Anča IAF, Slovakia, 2015

Official Selection

9th Anim’est IAFF, Rumania
Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, USA, 2014
15th Woodstock Film Festival, USA, 2014
57th DOK Leipzig, Germany
interfilm 30th ISFF, Berlin, Germany
Sommets du cinéma d’animation, Canada, 2014
11th Animateka, Slovenia, 2014
Anima 2015, Belgium, 2015
9th Tehran International Animation Festival, Iran, 2015
MONSTRA 2015, Portugal, 2015
17th ISFAF Mecal, Spain, 2015
Melbourne International Animation Festival, Australia, 2015
Fest Anča IAF, Slovakia, 2015
13th Mumia IAF, Brazil
Annecy 2015, France
Fest Anča IAF, Slovakia, 2015
Spin & See – Short Educational Film Festival, UK, 2015
Supertoon 2015, Croatia
13th Fantoche, Switzerland, 2015
4th The Vermont Animated Film Festival, USA, 2015
11th WFAF Varna 2015, Bulgaria, 2015
Québec City Film Festival (QCFF), Canada, 2015
28th Helsinki Intl’ Film Festival – Love & Anarchy, Finland, 2015
12th Sedicicorto International Film Festival, Italy, 2015
KloosterKino, The Netherlands, 2015
13th Mumia IAF, Brazil, 2015