Media Release: Documentary to receive international premiere, as Scots delegation head to Canada


SCOTS director, Mike Days debut documentary feature, The Islands and the Whales will receive its world premiere at Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in Toronto on Friday 29 April.

A delegation of eight Scottish documentary-makers will also travel to the festival to showcase their work and engage with the international screen sector.

The documentary, based on the hunting culture in the Faroe Islands and our effect on the environment, was filmed over four years and resulted in the creation of a new sound recording technique.

The Islands and the Whales is the first film to use ambisonic sound recordings at source and recreate them in cinemas in Dolby Atmos, a system using 128 speakers including vertical channels.

This means that cinema audiences will experience the sound as it was in the field, surrounded by the documented soundscape.

The premiere will include a showcase in association with Dolby and Skywalker Sound to demonstrate the success of this new technology and technique, made in Scotland.

The Islands and the Whales director/producer, Mike Day, said: “I brought the film to Hot Docs with the Interdoc Plus programme supported by Creative Scotland in 2012 when it was still in development, so I’m extremely happy to take it back there for the world premiere in the international competition.

“The film will also be the first documentary feature in Dolby Atmos and we are excited that we will be screening in that format and doing a special presentation with Dolby and Skywalker Sound on the use of this new technique.

“We want to transport audiences into the world on the screen, so it’s been an exciting new tool to work with.”

Supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland’s Targeted Screen Funding, the film was also backed by a crowdfunding campaign.

The Scottish delegation led by the Scottish Documentary Institute includes eight independent documentary filmmakers: Anthony Baxter (director/producer – Montrose Pictures), Felipe Bustos Sierra (director/producer – Debaser Filums), Adam Dawtrey (producer – Bofa Productions), Robbie Fraser (producer – Pure Magic Films), Nick Higgins (producer – Lansdowne Productions), Marie Liden (director – Freelance), Gill Parry (producer – Connect Film), Aimara Reques (producer – Aconite Productions).

Leslie Finlay, screen officer, Creative Scotland, said: “Scotland has a great history of producing pioneering documentary makers from Grierson to Mark Cousins and Kevin Macdonald.

“Like these famous names Mike Day has pushed the boundaries of documentary making with The Islands and the Whales and it is only fitting that the film is screened at Hot Docs, one of the biggest documentary festivals in the world.

“Furthermore, this delegation includes some of the most exciting documentary makers in Scotland at the moment, Hot Docs represents a great opportunity for them to showcase their skills internationally and grow their international networks.”

Sonja Henrici, co-director, Scottish Documentary Institute, said: “It’s great to be back with a Scottish delegation at Hot Docs, supporting the increasingly international outlook of Scottish documentary producers. It is vital in our industry to initiate and nurture relationships worldwide for co-production, sales, distribution as well as testing the market with fresh ideas.”

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival is recognised as North America’s largest documentary festival, conference and market. Each year, the festival presents a selection of approximately 200 cutting-edge documentaries from around the world.

Film information

The Islands and the Whales [Documentary Feature]

Director/producer: Mike Day


In their remote home in the North Atlantic, the Faroe Islanders have always eaten what nature could provide, proud to put local food on the table. The land yields little, so they have always relied on harvesting their seas.

Hunting whales and seabirds kept them alive for generations, and gave them the way of life they love; a life they would pass on to their children. But, today, they face a grave threat to this tradition.

It is not the controversy surrounding whaling that threatens the Faroese way of life; the danger is coming from the whales themselves.

The Faroese are among the first to feel the effects of our ever-more polluted oceans. They have discovered that their beloved whales are toxic, contaminated by the outside world. What once secured their survival now endangers their children and the Faroe Islanders must make a choice between health and tradition.

Technical: Mike Day worked with George Lucas’ Skywalker Sound to pioneer this, with Dolby to promote it, and with Harpex who have developed software especially for this film to translate the ambisonic recordings from a specially-designed tetrahedral mic, to Dolby Atmos.

Creative Scotland funding: £70,600 National Lottery funding through Creative Scotland’s Targeted Screen Fund.

Trailer available here:

Notes to editors:

Mike Day is a Scottish director and cinematographer. Formerly a lawyer, his debut film The Guga Hunters of Ness screened on the BBC in 2011 and at festivals internationally.

Mike founded Intrepid Cinema in 2009 before heading out into the North Atlantic to document the last ten seabird hunters permitted to continue a traditional gannet hunt in the Scottish Outer Hebrides. This was the first time since 1959 that the hunters had allowed this once secretive tradition to be filmed. After two weeks at sea, they returned home with a rare glimpse into this vanishing world.

Mike was listed as one the ’10 Filmmakers to Watch in 2012’ by Filmmaker Magazine, he was one of EDN’s 12 for the Future 2012, the first Scot on the Nordic programme, he is a Sundance Documentary Film Program Fellow, has pitched at Good Pitch 2015 and EIFF 2011, was on the EIFF 2012 Talent Lab, and is supported by the Scottish Documentary Institute’s Docscene programme.

Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here.  We enable people and organisations to work in and experience the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland by helping others to develop great ideas and bring them to life. We distribute funding provided by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery.For further information about Creative Scotland please visit Follow us @creativescots and

Media contact

Eilidh Walker

Media relations and PR assistant

Creative Scotland


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