Podesta Island


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Podesta Island
"Stephanie Roland's film exists in a space between spaces, a liminal latitude, languorous longitude, a tropic of candour."

That it was a "Captain Pinocchio" who discovered Podesta Island first adds something to the story of a place that may not be. "The absence is terrifying and sometimes we must fill it up by telling stories." What is more absent than the sea?

We've heard a voice, a history, but now it is the throaty roar of a marine diesel, that crankshaft cardiac clamour. The sea reaches up as spray to wash the windows. Another voice, another version of the story. Another vision, held up against the landscape where the landscape does not match.

We will hear other voices, excuses, justifications, explanations. "It is reality," even if it contains appeals to higher powers like seers and NASA. The stars hold no answer, or do they?

Stephanie Roland's film exists in a space between spaces, a liminal latitude, languorous longitude, a tropic of candour. Testimony of the Poles in French, the endless day, the endless ice. "turn back," "go crazy," these are not choices. Memories of losing memories, forgetting no longer off the table.

Piquer Rodriguez Jorge's camerawork finds faces in landscapes, landscapes in faces. Maps of emotion in a work that is psychogeographic, of the geography of psyches. Half light and half truth, heavy weather and big ideas.

Podesta takes its name, if it can have a name, from a boat. The vessel named for a position in pre-national Italy, the highest official of a municipality before the city-states. Small power against the sea, which shapes, consumes, provides. The sand on the beach was once rocks, shells, stuff, ground by the moon's maritime mill.

The rush of surf against imaginary shores. The island brooks no return, not of voyagers or radar's waves. A light that might be dusk, or dawn, heading lost in a place not encompassed by some maps. "Large sovereign states have a hunger for small islands," but that seems less of niceties of international law and the governance of the seabed than the naivete of intentional lore and the Godzilla of science fiction.

Ludivine Pele's sound matches with the last things we see, the spume and spray of sea eliding the coastal cliffs. There is talk of legends. The world tree, the place of eternal youth, the recurring land where the three brother winds dwell. Within that frame another legend, an island that has been seen once, but documented significantly thereafter. No island, nor sirens, nor structures, but still a call, a claim, an island.

In a pre-recorded Q&A at Glasgow's 2022 Short Film Festival she explained her fascination with islands goes back to her birth in Micronesia. Moving at just three years old to Belgium, she grew up with stories about "how you lived on an island" and this stimulus to her imagination growing up in Charleroi's "post industrial" landscape, once called "the ugliest... in Europe". That is a sufficiently "different background" that islands became something she dreamt of. An influence seen in several of her other works, as a gateway to fiction, to geopolitical analysis.

"With modern contemporary cartography you obviously [know] if an island exists or not" the idea of phantom islands and contemporary ones is fascinating. Even interviewing experts there was a lack of certainty, "with the use of fiction and reality" she wanted to create something that touched not only on the ghostly nature of the islands but the absence of those disappeared by the Pinochet regime. The "semi-truth, legend, faits divers", "parallel narrations not to confuse but to transmit some complexity". In that ambiguity in a different circumstance is her current project, a feature about Freemasonry, a project with obvious connections to Scotland but also to her explorations of geography and environment. Focusing on the relationships between teenagers and their initiated fathers, the mixture of

The discussion further extended to her cast, to process, to the element of forgetting in this work and others, the desire to forget in a complex media space. The island is claimed by the micronation of Rino, who wish to award a medal to Roland for its exploration. Since her feature project was sparked by discovering a medal in her father's belongings after his death this is sufficiently circular as to become a spiral search pattern. Podesta Island, allegedly of roughly one kilometre radius at -32.233333, -89.133333 (decimal) may not exist, but the film absolutely does, and is worth finding.

Reviewed on: 27 Mar 2022
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Podesta Island packshot
In a hyperconnected and mapped world, are there still unknown areas?

Director: Stephanie Roland

Year: 2020

Runtime: 24 minutes

Country: France, Federated States of Micronesia


GSFF 2022

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