Director: Kaneto Shindo
On the tiny arid island in the Sea of Seto, a family of four—a man and his wife and their two small children, Taro and Jiro — are the sole inhabitants. The land is hard and unyielding yet they cultivate it from shore to hilltop, harvesting wheat in the spring, sweet potatoes in the summer. Every day they journey by boat to fetch water and laboriously climb to the slopes where the crops sprawl in dry soil, apportioning a third of a pannikin to each plant. Every seed is sown and every crop harvested by hand.
The drama of this family's everyday life, and their continual struggle for subsistence is played without speech. Music and the sound of wind and waves give relief to the prevailing silence, and it is this creative use of silence which emphasizes their preoccupation with basic existence. The slow, repetitive shots of figures toiling uphill perhaps give similar emphasis to the monotony of the days and years. The Island has been likened by overseas critics to Flaherty's Man of Aran. It was awarded the Grand Prix (ex-aequo with Clear Skies) at the 1961 Moscow Film Festival. The director, Kaneto Shindo, is known in Australia for his Children of Hiroshima.