Sable Island is a spit of land 20 miles long and just over a mile wide located off the coast of Nova Scotia. (Canada). There she has lived for 40 years, surrounded by wild horses and gray seals, naturalist Zoe Lucas.
Geographies of solitude, included in that panorama ZINEBI traces about the best documentaries of the year called Beautiful Docs, starts as an observational documentary in which Jacquelyn Mills’ gaze is captivated by the beauty of a wild and splendid landscape. His camera keeps pace with the rhythms that the nature of the place dictates and allows himself to be guided by the steps and routines of Lucas, a meticulous statesman who collects vast amounts of data, knowing that the island he has turned into a workplace (also a space for reflection and thought) is located in privileged coordinates to analyze the behavior and future state of the waters of the Atlantic (and, by extension, the health of the planet).
It happens that, as this pas de deux between the naturalist and the director evolves, in a second part perhaps a bit morose, the film deviates towards less propitious currents, beauty begins to become painful and the suicidal relentlessness of the human being manifest in the form of thousands of plastic waste that decorate the island as if it were a tree consecrated to death instead of nativity. If Mills had captured the environment in a less beautiful and less calm way, perhaps the drift of his film would inflict less damage on us, but what is at stake here is to expose the very paradox of a cannibalistic species (ours) capable of destroying without any contemplation the habitat that allows it to exist.
And it is that Lucas not only conscientiously studies the life cycles of fauna and flora, but also is dedicated to the collection and cataloging of trash stranded on the shores of Sable Island -until they see it with their own eyes they will be unable to even imagine the amount of shit that can reach such a remote place- as an exercise in pedagogy ecologist that Geographies of Solitude he prolongs through image and sound, grafting onto his footage small experimental pieces that become calm metaphors for recycling (celluloid as a crucible in which waste and nature merge). Thus, art appears to us as a possible path towards environmental awareness, but also as a loudspeaker that alerts us to the finiteness of resources: Mills warns us that he’s started using the last 16mm roll he’s brought with him to the island, and when he runs out of it, the movie will be over. To the good understander…
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Zinebi 2022 | ‘Geographies of solitude’: an inventory for the end of the world