The deserted island of Gunkanjima, as it is most often called, was a coal mining colony based on an island roughly the size of a football field. This was the most densely populated place on earth before Mitsubishi, the company who owned the island, closed the operation in 1974. Upon closing they offered the population to apply for jobs on the mainland, leading to a mass-exodus within only a few days of closing its mines. Thus, the island was left as if a neutron bomb had gone through it, with people´s breakfasts remaining on the tables, bicycles leaning on the walls, and beds still unmade. It is a harrowing place
The third in the series of films in a collaboration between artist CM von Hausswolff and filmmaker Thomas Nordanstad. Following the films "Hashima, Japan, 2002" and "Al Qasr, Egypt, 2005", this film deals with a society of oil production, at the heart of the old oil belt that was discovered in the late 19th century.
Statement from show:
Electra, Texas 2008
With our film, Electra,Texas 2008, we are completing a cycle of three individual films that we now recognize are more realated than we had first intended.
Shot in the north of Texas close to the Red River, in a long, panoramic shots and edited with a slow, bluesy soundtrack, it follows “Hashima, Japan, 2002” and “Al Qasr, Bahriyah Oasis, Egypt 2005” both in form and structure. Electra is a small, sleepy town with an almost deserted town center, yet around it the pumpjacks are bringing up the last remaing drops of black gold in the area. The procedure is the same as in the heydays, before the depression, when more than 5000 wells and pumpjacks going up and down could be seen in the fields.
When we had finished the first two films, we realized that they were, aside from being aesthetically similar in style and technique, connected in ways that surprised us. Shot three years apart, they seemed to us to be describing some very basic conditions for human survival.
The island of Hashima was a place that existed as a society from the early 20th century simply because coal was found there. Mining ensued and Hashima became the most densely populated place on earth for many years, until the coal ran out in 1974 and the island was deserted in just a few months. The need for for people to live there was essentially gone with the resource that brought them there in the first place.
The little oasis-village of Al Qasr in the far lower corner of Egypt maintains its existance trough an every day struggle to overcome temperature, especially the water resources that supplies life to it. The water for drinking and making anything grow is nearly boiling as it springs up from the wells. The maintenance of an old culture comes from both the ingenious ways of handling these difficulties, as well as those difficulties being the very prevention for any modernisation. Again because there is simply no reason for modern living to make things that hard for itself. Whatever Al Qasr produces in figs and a few other products is hard enough to do as it is. No modernisation would be financially feasible, and no technique would bring the water up any cooler. Thus the place is as it is, almost untouched by contemporary life.
Electra, Texas in some ways sums up these two polarized reasons for existance. While it is still there, and the oil activity slowly goes on, there is also an awarness that the resource is running out and that the development of anything else to produce in this area is virtually none. Oil brought people there, and the drying out of it, together with the greater awareness of its futility as a reasonable source of energy, will bring people away. Still, life goes on, and the little that comes up from the fields surrounding Electra, maintains a society that somehow is being preserved by the inability to for instance grow anything else on these salt-dreched fields. It is not that people wouldn´t want to produce something else (oil-drilling is very hard and old-fashioned work), but there is simply not much else to do that would be economically rewarding in Electra, Texas.
We believe that there is a beauty in just watching life take place. We try to let the time in the scenes we shoot act as a metaphor for time passing also in the viewers contemplation, and we hope to make these kind of “documentary films” as tributes to the people who were and still are creating these societies.