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Mumbai International Film Festival Premieres “My Mercury” Documentary

Mumbai: The 18th edition of the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) for Documentary, Short Fiction, and Animation Films hosted the international premiere of the documentary “My Mercury” today. Directed by Joelle Chesselet, the film offers an intimate and challenging exploration of her brother Yves Chesselet’s life, a solitary conservationist on Mercury Island off the coast of Namibia, South Africa.

“To live on an island, you need a certain kind of personality,” Chesselet remarked, emphasizing her brother’s quest to escape the clamor of modern life. The 104-minute documentary immerses viewers in Yves Chesselet’s extraordinary world, where he dedicates himself to conservation on Mercury Island, with seabirds and seals as his sole companions. His courageous mission to restore the island for endangered species unfolds as a gripping narrative of sacrifice, triumph, and the deep bonds between man and nature. The film poignantly addresses the decline of endangered seabirds and other wildlife threatened by an overpopulation of seals.

The 18th edition of MIFF runs from June 15 to June 21, 2024, at the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) – Films Division premises on Pedder Road in Mumbai.

Chesselet describes “My Mercury” as an eco-psychological film that delves into the intricate human psyche and our exhilarating relationship with nature. “An island is a finite and challenging space,” she noted, alluding to the mental strains of such isolation. “Everything that happened in the film is true,” Chesselet asserted, clarifying that only a few reconstructions were used to fill gaps in footage.

Mercury Island, the film’s focal point, is portrayed as a “soul space” for Yves, transformed into a paradise through his conservation efforts. The title, “My Mercury,” reflects this profound connection to the island.

Chesselet highlights the complex interplay between human and non-human interactions in ecological balance. “The removal of man from the equilibrium had an effect on the number of seals increasing and seabirds decreasing,” she explained, pointing out that excessive fishing exacerbates the problem. The film calls for heightened awareness and action on environmental issues, urging people to move beyond superficial political concerns. “Sentimentality in describing the natural world is not necessarily constructive. Awareness is key, in both micro and macro senses,” she stated.

Given the film’s sensitive subject matter, Chesselet acknowledges the industry’s tendency to sensationalize. “Since it is a touching subject and the protagonist is my own brother, I have to tread the path carefully,” she added.

Lloyd Ross, the Director of Photography for “My Mercury,” echoed the film’s controversial nature due to Yves’ methods in managing the seal population. Despite this, the nature conservation community has shown robust support for the film. Ross described the logistical challenges of filming on the island, noting that “getting onto the island is so hectic and difficult since the shore has no beaches and all rocks.”

“My Mercury” promises to be a thought-provoking documentary that not only highlights critical conservation issues but also delves into the profound human connection with nature.

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