DER Documentary

Sailing a Sinking Sea

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by Olivia Wyatt
color, 65 min, 2015
in Thai, Southern Thai, Burmese, Moken
with English subtitles



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Sailing A Sinking Sea is a feature-length experimental documentary exploring the culture of the Moken people of Burma and Thailand. The Moken are a seafaring community and one of the smallest ethnic minority groups in Asia, traditionally spending eight months out of the year in thatch-roofed wooden boats. Wholly reliant upon the sea, their entire belief system revolves around water.

Sailing A Sinking Sea weaves a visual and aural tapestry of Moken mythologies and present-day practices. As a viewer you will swim under the sea past fishes and mermaids, sail boats across turquoise waters, land on 13 different islands, step inside sea shanties on stilts, delve into the minds of shamans, become possessed through the worship of sea gods, dance between lovers and emerge drenched in Moken mythology.

“This loving impressionistic tribute is [...] an outlier in contemporary cinema, springing as it does from the 1930s ethnographic cinema of Robert Flaherty as well as the later visions of Jean Rouch in the '60s and Robert Gardner (who's cited in the credits) in the '70s and '80s.” — Carson Lund, Slant Magazine

awardsFilm Festivals, Screenings, Awards
SXSW, Austin, TX 2015
Hot Docs, Toronto, Canada 2015
Maryland Film Festival, 2015
Chicago Underground Film Festival, Chicago, IL, 2015
Rural Route Film Festival, Museum of the Moving Image, New York, NY, 2015
Environmental Film Festival, Australia, 2015
Camden International Film Festival, Camden, ME, 2015
Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, Hot Springs, AR, 2015
Margaret Mead Film Festival, New York, NY, 2015
Denver Film Festival, Denver, CO, 2015
Cucalorous Film Festival, Wilmington, NC, 2015
Singapore International Film Festival, 2015

Related Resources
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