Sailing a Sinking Sea

A silhouette of a diver without underwater breathing equipment, wearing shorts and holding a thin, body-length spear or tool, against a turquoise-blue background.

Olivia Wyatt
2015 | 64 minutes | Myanmar, Thailand, Moken, U.S.A.
New York Premiere 

Sailing a Sinking Sea is an experimental documentary that delves into the lives and culture of the seafaring Moken, an ethnic group living on the Andaman Sea in Southeast Asia. As one of the smallest ethnic groups in Asia, the Moken have developed a unique society that relies on the ocean for every aspect of life; their belief system, education, and economic and social practices are all rooted in their relationship with water. Director Olivia Wyatt’s lyrical film documents Moken communities through breathtaking underwater footage, conversations about daily lives, and a swirl of traditional Moken music. Though technology and globalization encroach, the film’s main event is a celebration of a rich and remarkable place and culture.

Watch the trailer on vimeo. 

Preceded by Flor de la Mar

Co-presented by Rooftop Films and Rural Route Film Festival

Thresholds, My Perspective

"We move and move head north and head south and so on. We always move." It is the Andaman sea, not the shores its turquoise waters touch, that the Moken consider home. Prior to the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 the Moken were predominantly nomadic, living in homemade wooden houseboats and flowing with the water wherever the spirit moved them. They were self-sustainable and sailed onto land only to forage or seek a temporary respite from the watery chaos created by the monsoon season. The Moken were also unbound by invisible territorial lines drawn onto a body which never sits still, flows internationally and pledges allegiance to no one. Their way of life is so symbiotic with this vital force of nature that almost every single Moken survived the tsunami of 2004, thanks to premonitions from their shamans and ancestral wisdom gained from generations of living intimately with the sea. It was because of the tsunami that the world even noticed the Moken -- in its wake, the Moken have come under pressure to assimilate into the mainstream. Present influences impacting their culture include religious, governmental, non-governmental organizations and the commercial fishing industry. Now numbering less than 3,000, forced to stay on islands year round, and allowed to fish only within limits, the Moken culture is evaporating and along with it, their vast wisdom of the sea."

- Olivia Wyatt| Director, Sailing a Sinking Sea