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Ama divers

A 52′ feature documentary
Written and directed by Kate Thompson‐Gorry


On every fishing outing with her grandmother, Aoi wonders if she will have the strength to carry on. The weather is ideal for shell fishing in the shark-infested waters of the Japanese Sea of Hegura Island. Yet Aoi, 21, still a novice, is nervous to dive in front of her more experienced grandmother. Machiko, 82, is a traditional Ama free diver, meaning “woman of the sea.” She is one of the last custodians of a 2 000 years old expertise, one of harvesting abalone and the other precious shells that once had a place of honour at the emperors’ table.

The Ama tradition is passed down from mother to daughter but for several generations now the ice-cold waters, the scarcity of seashells and the mortal danger that represent both sharks and other fishing boats have discouraged the younger generation who is migrating to Japan’s large cities. Is Aoi her grandmother’s true successor or will she end up abandoning, like the three other young women in her village, who returned to land only last year? Aoi knows that on her shoulders rest the hopes of the entire Ama community.

Sara, 17, lives on the mainland opposite Hegura island. She is a typical Japanese young woman, living in a world of touch screens and social media. Yet a few months, to the astonishment of her friends, Sara revealed that she wanted to become an Ama. Will she embody the new Ama generation the whole island is so desperately waiting for?

Cinematography : Kate Thompson-Gorry
Underwater cinematography : Go Tabinuki
Scientific Adviser: Anne McDonald
Translation : Makiko Segawa, Aki Fujiwara
Editing : Cécile Garnier
Original score : Gérard Cohen-Tannugi

Production: Nicolas Deschamps, Jean Pierre Bailly, Anastasia Feuillet
International Distribution: Terranoa

© MC4 / PLANÈTE + thalassa / 8 MONT BLANC / 2015