Editor's note: This film is no longer available online. 

The inhabitants of the stunning Faroe Islands pride themselves on their self-sustainability and respectful affinity with their environment.

As director Benjamin Huguet films, in sometimes shocking scenes, they are used to raising and hunting their own food.

But with international protests against whale hunting and the introduction of new regulations, they have to question the future of their traditions.


By Benjamin Huguet

The making of my film, The Archipelago, started with the reading of the book Moby-Dick. As a documentary filmmaker, I became fascinated by Herman Melville's use of true stories and encyclopedic information as the main substance of his novel. I was also struck by his cinematic writing and scenic description.

I understood Moby-Dick in relation to our never-ending conflicting relationship with the environment - a theme which I have explored previously in my films. Hence I thought Melville's book would be a great starting point for approaching a documentary. I started looking for a story, a place where the hunt for a wild animal would bring strong symbolic meaning.

After a two-day boat trip from a tiny port in Denmark, I arrived very early in the morning in Torshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands. Discovering that remote archipelago, I quickly realised that the place lived in a very different rhythm; the days are short, weather is rough and unreliable and the air is moist and cold. I had never set foot on the Faroe Islands before and was soon seduced by the friendship and hospitality for which the Faroese are famous. 

I soon met the artist, Trondur Patursson. As a younger man he travelled around the world with his friend and documentary film-maker Tim Severin, together investigating the truth behind the Moby-Dick story. Later, I was introduced to Bjartur, a young hunter and a nature lover, who would guide me around the islands' outdoor activities and introduce me to the Faroese wildlife. 

As is often pointed out by the anti-whaling activists, the Faroese enjoy many of the comforts that characterise the western world.

In spite of this, the Faroese make a point of getting part of their food from their immediate environment; catching birds, fishing, farming are all common among the Faroese, where whaling is one of the many means of adaptation to the environment.

The Faroese are used to hunting their own food. But with international protests against whale hunting and of new regulations, they have to question the future of their traditions [Al Jazeera] 

In the Faroe Islands, whale hunting is a non-commercial activity. Meat is shared between the local communities and may be processed by any Faroese. I come from continental Europe, where we hear about the wrongful treatment of animals in our industrial farming and slaughterhouses. As such, and considering that the pilot whale is not an endangered species, I found the practices of the Faroese difficult to oppose, or to have strong arguments against. 

The Archipelago has been shown in several screenings and festivals around the world. I have enjoyed great conversations about the environment, self-sustainability and "locavorism".

Not everybody embraces the practice of the Faroese but we can identify with the inhabitants of this tiny island, and understand their concerns and their way of living.

My intention for The Archipelago was to bring together several opposing elements to help us to form an opinion on the matter. I hope the film allows us to consider the Faroese whale hunt in a less confrontational approach and to develop new ways of thinking in our relationship with the environment.

Source: Al Jazeera