2018 Sundance Docs in Focus: ANOTE’S ARK

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Matthieu Rytz

Matthieu Rytz intimately chronicles the consequences of climate change on a disappearing island nation.

Festival Section:
World Cinema Documentary Competition


Special Program:
The New Climate

Sundance Program Description:

What happens when your nation is swallowed by the sea? With the harsh realities of climate change looming, the low-lying Pacific nation Kiribati must find a new solution for the survival of its people. With sweeping cinematography, ANOTE’S ARK interweaves two poignant stories. Anote Tong, endearing president of the island, races to find options – advocating in international climate negotiations and even investigating building underwater cities. At the same time, warm and sharp-witted Sermary, a young mother of six, tackles every struggle with humour. She must decide whether to leave the only culture she knows on the island and migrate to a new life in New Zealand.

First-time filmmaker Matthieu Rytz sharply captures the next evolution in the shifting dynamics of climate change – one where borders, technology, and global treaties are urgent and can change daily life as we know it. This portrait of the Kiribati people exudes strength of character and grace as they confront the inevitable change they are facing head on.

Some Background:

  • Matthieu Rytz

    The Swiss-born Montreal visual anthropologist promotes advocacy via his long-term photographic projects chronicling social and environmental changes around the world. This is his first documentary feature.

Executive Producer/Editor:

  • Mila Aung-Thwin
    Past Sundance docs:

    TOKYO IDOLS (2017)
    LAST TRAIN HOME (2010, executive producer/producer)
    UP THE YANGTZE (2008, producer)

    The Emmy- and Genie Award-winning Aung-Thwin is one of the founders of the acclaimed Montreal documentary production company EyeSteelFilm.

Executive Producers:

  • Bob Moore
    Past Sundance docs:

    TOKYO IDOLS (producer)
    CHINA HEAVYWEIGHT (producer)
    LAST TRAIN HOME (co-producer)

    Moore is the Emmy-winning co-president of EyeSteelFilm.

  • Daniel Cross
    Past Sundance docs:

    LAST TRAIN HOME (executive producer/producer)

    Cross is a co-founder of EyeSteelFilm, through which he has also won Emmy and Genie Awards.

  • Shari Sant Plummer
    Past Sundance docs:

    CHASING CORAL (2017, associate producer)

    Plummer’s Code Blue Foundation supports projects which draw attention to ocean and watershed ecosystems.

  • Shannon O’Leary Joy
    Past Sundance docs:

    CHASING CORAL (associate producer)

    Joy serves as the director of The Joy Foundation, which focuses on the protection of marine ecosystems and their biodiversity.


  • Oana Khintirian

    This marks Khintirian’s first Sundance project.

Why You Should Watch:
Rytz wisely grounds his study through two primary figures, representing, on one hand, the leadership of Kiribati and its attempts to seek an international solution, and, on the other, a ground-level perspective of the ordinary citizenry, forced to contend with an impending upheaval. The film is part of Sundance’s environmentally-themed programming strand, The New Climate.

More Info:

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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