Documentary Film “My Mercury” Premieres at MIFF 2024, Explores Conservation on Mercury Island

The 18th edition of the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) for Documentary, Short Fiction, and Animation Films featured the big screen international premiere of the documentary “My Mercury” today. Directed by Joelle Chesselet, the film offers a deeply personal and challenging journey into the life of her brother, Yves Chesselet, a lone conservationist on Mercury Island off the coast of Namibia, South Africa.

“To live on an island, you need a certain kind of personality,” says Chesselet, highlighting her brother’s desire to escape the world’s noise and rush. The 104-min documentary steps into the extraordinary world of Yves Chesselet and his attempts at conservation on Mercury Island where seabirds and seals become his only companions. His daring mission to reclaim the island for endangered species unfolds as a captivating tale of sacrifice, triumph and the profound bonds forged between man and nature. The film delves into the decline of endangered seabirds and other wildlife facing existential threats from seals.

The 18th edition of MIFF is taking place from 15th June to 21st June 2024, at the National Film Development Corporation -Films Division premises at Pedder Road in Mumbai.

Chesselet describes “My Mercury” as an eco-psychological film that explores the complex psyche of human beings and our exhilarating relationship with nature. “An island is a finite and challenging space,” she noted, suggesting that such an environment can be mentally taxing. “Everything that happened in the film is true,” asserts Chesselet, adding that only a few reconstructions were deployed in place of missing footage.

The island of Mercury, the film’s focal point, is depicted as a “soul space” for the protagonist, transformed into a paradise through his efforts. The film’s title, My Mercury, reflects this intimate connection to the island.

Chesselet underscores 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 explains, pointing out that excessive fishing also contributes to the problem. The film calls for greater 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 and force everything. “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 the protagonist’s methods in dealing with seals. Despite this, the nature conservation community has shown strong support for the film. Ross described the logistical challenges of filming on the island, noting that “getting into 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.