A Journey Through Exuma Cays


Siri Linn Brandsøy and Suneeta Rani Gill tell us about their film that was a result of their three-week journey in Exuma Cays. 

© Tarjei Langeland

Why did you decide to make a short film series rather than one longer documentary?

Siri Linn: We worked on this project in collaboration with A Sustainable Future for Exuma research lab. Over the course of a three-year period they did fieldwork and research across numerous cays in Exuma and wanted us to make a series of short films representing the diversity of livelihoods on these islands. Together we identified four islands that we, the filmmakers, would visit during our three-week trip, making a short portrait film at each stop. In addition to this we made a 24-minute conversational piece that weaves together many of the interviews that we did and the places we visited over the course of the entire trip.

What kind of an experience was your three weeks in the Bahamas?

Suneeta: Producing five short films in three weeks was an intense, challenging and incredible experience. Since we didn’t have much time we always had to be switched on and ready to improvise. We woke up every morning before sunrise and worked until sunset. In the evenings when we were eating dinner we would observe tourists who were so full of energy after a day in the sun, while we were almost falling asleep in our seats while planning the next day’s shoot. There wasn’t time to laze around on the beach, but we did enjoy working in such a beautiful setting and meeting so many kind and interesting people who welcomed us into their lives. Being out there, spending time with them and getting to be part of their lives is why we do what we do. We love people and we love to tell stories together with them.

In what way does autonomy feature in your film?

Siri Linn: Autonomy is there in several ways. First of all, in the authorship; all the underwater filming was done by either Kimble or Dwayne and as co-makers they chose what to capture on camera. Kimble was especially excited to be contributing to the film in this way. For many people in Little Farmer’s Cay, including Dwayne and Kimble, learning to fish, having access to fishing grounds and being able to navigate the sea aren’t only traditions passed down through generations, they also provide them with a sense of control over their own lives. With these skills, they can provide for themselves and their families, they can continue to pass on this knowledge and they can do so in the place they call home. Rather than seeking work in urban areas far from home they have found a way of making a living in a place where they have a sense of rootedness.

© Tarjei Langeland

How does your view of the Bahamas differ compared to people who go there just for a holiday? Do you plan to go back any time soon?

Suneeta: That would depend on what type of tourist someone is and what one seeks when one goes travelling. Some people travel and engage with locals beyond service-oriented interactions, while others remain in their own world, choosing to enjoy a life of leisure without reflecting much on the lives of others. We are always interested in getting to know local people and their ways of life when we travel. Especially when working on a documentary project like this, the level of interaction runs deep.

Siri Linn: Through spending time with the locals and asking them to share parts of their lives with us I think we came closer to understanding how they see and experience life on the cays. Although there is always a gap between our subjective views, our approach is intersubjective. In the process we made friends who we are still in touch with and if we have the opportunity to go back to do other projects there we would definitely return.

What do you hope this documentary will teach viewers?

Suneeta: First, we hope that those who are featured in this film feel it is an accurate reflection of our time spent with them. For other viewers, we hope that through watching and listening they get a sense of what it is like to be from a small island like Little Farmer’s Cay and what a special relationship people there have with the sea.

Siri Linn: We also hope it makes people ask questions that we don’t address directly in the film. That it makes them think about the relationship we have to the landscapes and seascapes around us and go beyond thinking of them merely as resources to be used at will. For them to continue sustaining our lives we also have to sustain them. Take care of them. We live in a time when there's still so much we don't know about the ocean, yet many see it as an arena that we can control to exploit for oil and food, or waste disposal. If the sea isn’t an integral part of our daily lives we might not think about the bigger picture that we are all part of, while someone like Dwayne perceives the changes and experiences the up close.

( In The Waters of Little Farmer's Cay, October 27th, Joensuu Science Park)