Knit’s Island takes us to a virtual island where, in the depths of Internet wastelands, various gaming communities and individuals fight to survive. Three directors created this film within a virtual post-apocalyptic world by introducing themselves to players of the online multiplayer video game DayZ as a documentary team and by using documentary techniques that are normally used IRL and are typical for direct cinema – a participant observation of the subject, use of the shot/reverse shot technique, interviews and close-ups. Their avatars spent over 963 hours on Knit’s Island, creating a fascinating film that interlaces brutality, satire, and a gentle feeling of community, while examining the boundary between the real and the virtual in a pretty disturbing way. Aesthetically, Knit’s Island reminds of a digital version of “the Zone” from Tarkovsky’s Stalker, or Punishment Park by master of docudrama Peter Watkins. Some players see Knit’s Island as a virtual oasis that allows them to run away from their everyday lives (but why choose such a desolate, violent and gloomy place as their refuge and what does it say about society?). On the other hand, there are players who would rather live out their dark fantasies here, unfettered by geographical and legal restrictions, or showcase the preparations they are making for an increasingly likely apocalyptic future. Others yet are there to form unexpected and loyal communities that hold hope for a better future scenario. As usual, documentarians went where many of us do not dare go, and on this dangerous mission they came to some surprising realisations about the virtualisation of our lives and the unsuspected possibilities of the metaverse, whose charms we are still resisting – but for how long? (DP)
Awards and festivals:
Visions du Réel (2023) – world premiere, Jury Prize in the Burning Lights Competition and FIPRESCI Awards; Documenta Madrid International Film Festival (2023); Millennium Docs Against Gravity (2023)
Ekiem Barbier, Guilhem Causse, and Quentin L’helgoualc’h form the trio behind Knit’s Island (2023). The three directors used avatars to enter the post-apocalyptic world of the online video game DayZ and make contact with players. Their debut feature won two awards at the Visions du Réel festival, where it won Best Film in the Burning Lights Competition and the International Critics’ Award – FIPRESCI Award.