Review: Islanders

Directed by Craig Harmer and Joe Zook, following electro-pop duo FINKEL as they set out to write a record from within the frozen forests of their hometown – Michigan’s isolated and eccentric Mackinac Island. Starring: Jane Spencer and Brian Spencer.

When it comes to band documentaries, there can be plenty where if you don’t have prior knowledge, it’s going to massively lower your enjoyment but Islanders is not one of them. You can feel secure going in that even if you’re unaware of the band, there’s still plenty for you to enjoy. Immediately it has a very positive energy and that continues throughout the film, there’s a satisfyingly open and genuine atmosphere.

The way that the camera moves holds a friendly presence, it doesn’t feel intrusive, it’s a warm and welcoming tone. There’s also a great deal of sublime natural imagery used throughout, Mackinac Island is inherently picturesque and especially in the dead of winter. It’s full of great cinematography, mixing an intimate atmosphere with a larger depth. It explores their environment as well as their process; from the harshness yet beauty of their surroundings, to the neighbours and how intrinsic the island is to their work.

One of the interesting and unexpected additions to Islanders is how it dips into Jane Spencer’s upbringing. As soon as it turns to the topic, you know that this is a person who grew up in an artistic household, and it exemplifies how that creates entirely different sensibilities. Changing how they approach tasks and particularly well summed up when she says that they weren’t allowed to have erasers as kids and just had to deal with their mistakes. It’s not pretentious or inaccessible, it’s endearing to see how her parents’ choices influenced the person she became and the life she chose.

While it may not take over the entire film, it does still explore their music making process and it’s incredibly creative and unusual. It’s really enjoyable to see them go off in search of different sounds, particularly using nature to their full advantage before working them into the music. Every different element comes together and creates a relaxing flow to the pacing of the film. It’s extremely easy to be drawn in by and the way that the film moves feels natural and connected.

Islanders is a superbly shot documentary, following a band that you may not know going into the film but it’s likely that you’ll come out of it a fan (or at the very least heading to your preferred streaming service to check out their page). It starts out with the band and their process of creating music but expands to different avenues of their life and their environment creating something relaxing, natural and charming.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10

Releasing in the US on September 27th on all major cable platforms plus iTunes, Prime Video, Vudu, Google Play & YouTube – Find out more here

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