Scene from the film A Tale of Two Islands
Scene from the film A Tale of Two Islands
Scene from the film A Tale of Two Islands
Scene from the film A Tale of Two Islands
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A Tale of Two Islands

  • Germany

On March 31st 2011 the small island Mayotte in the Indian Ocean officially received the status as the 101st department of France. Since that day, a new external frontier of the European Union separates Mayotte from Anjouan, its African sister-island belonging to the Union of the Comoros. Both Islands were for a long time part of the French colonial empire. In the wake of the African decolonization movement of the 1970s, referendums were organized on both islands. While Anjouan declared its independence, the overwhelming majority in Mayotte voted for remaining a part of France. Since then, Mayotte profits from French investments into its infrastructure, education and health system, while Anjouan looks back onto a history full of coups d’états, political turmoil and economic depression. Many Anjouanais thus try to clandestinely reach their neighbor-island in nighttime crossings with small motorboats, so called Kwassas.

“A Tale of Two Islands” describes the postcolonial space that originates from this complex political situation. It consists of two synchronized films that are projected onto two opposing screens. Documentary encounters filmed in the ports of the capitals of both islands unfold in precisely composed tableaux, revealing the invisible bonds that connect them.

The installation immerses the spectator in these two realities by placing him on the very border that shapes the life on each island. The work is structured as a loop. Each film narrates a single day, from sunrise to sunset. The cycle of everyday events thus unfolds simultaneously on both sides of the border. The audience is free to move in the installation space, yet attention is subtly guided through the sound that accentuates particular scenes and incidents.


  • Original title
    A Tale of Two Islands
  • Direction
  • Screenplay
    Steffen Köhn, Paola Calvo
  • DOP
    Paola Calvo
  • Editing
    Steffen Köhn, Paola Calvo
  • Sound
    Daniel Engel, Alexandre Leser
  • Duration
    15 min (1-15 min.)
  • Year
  • Country
    • Germany
  • Colour
    • Colour
  • Production
  • Festivals
    • Berlinale, Berlin International Film Festival, Forum Expanded section
    • Melancholy in Progress. Taiwan International Video Art Exhibition, Hong-Gah Museum Taipei
    • Monitoring, Documentary Film- and Video Festival Kassel
    • Vienna Art Week. Galerie Hinterland
    • Anthropologies Numériques. Le Cube, Paris
    • X-Border Art Biennial, Lulea, Sweden
    • Go East Festival Wiesbaden
    • International Short Film Festival Cairo
    • Danish National Museum, Copenhagen
    • Museum of Ethnology, Dresden is powered by Doc Alliance, a creative partnership of 7 key European documentary film festivals. Our aim is to advance the documentary genre, support its diversity and promote quality creative documentary films.

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