Eliza Kubarska’s portrait of a tribe of sea nomads near Borneo premiered at Hot Docs in 2014, where it won a special jury prize. Its fest circuit also included Traverse City, Los Angeles, Reykjavik, Vancouver, Zurich, London, Planete+ Doc, Denver, Palm Springs, and Margaret Mead, among several others.
Kubarska’s focus is on the Badjao, a vanishing people who once traversed the seas around Borneo, dependent on spearing deepwater fish using dangerous diving techniques. Her subjects, Alexan and his nephew Sari, are among the few Badjao left who are trying to maintain their traditional way of life in the face of a changing world and efforts by local authorities to normalize their existence, settling them on land and turning their talents to the service of tourism. The film employs striking underwater camerawork to capture its subjects’ watery world, creating a stark contrast with the seemingly dead-end options of land-borne modernity that they’re being pushed towards.