An interview with director Anna Antsalo, whose documentary about beachcombers, Walk the Tideline, is DocPoint’s opening film.
Who or what is a beachcomber?
I believe that anyone who enjoys spending time on beaches, scouring through the little nooks for objects and life, is a beachcomber. These beach sweepers explore the shore and know to look out for treasure washed up by the sea. Oftentimes the items brought by the sea are a lifeline.
What interested you about them?
A while ago I read about a marine researcher who used containers to measure ocean currents. Beachcombers then reported on the washed up container parts they found on different beaches.
Oceans contain an incredible amount of stuff, our waste and history are swirling in scattered scraps amongst the energy and organisms spread by currents.
I wanted to make a film on the topic, and it felt natural to turn the lens towards shorelines and beachcombers. In a way, beachcombers act as gatekeepers to the information that the sea spits out.
What are modern-day beachcombers like? What does scouring the beach mean to them?
I believe that everyone has their own perspectives and interests for canvassing their coastlines, and their own specific reasons for combing shores. I think many people would like to enjoy being on the beach, but instead end up cleaning their surroundings, and that way discovering what knowledge the ocean has to offer.
How did the documentary’s characters come to be involved in the film?
Initially I was mostly interested in the objects that these people had found. They are all active on social media, and each have their own visual styles of presenting what they have found.
Rob, Jolanda, Lonneke and Shig all have their own interests in beach combing. They speak about the same thing, but through unique perspectives.
What is fascinating about objects and trash abandoned by others? What makes the information they contain worthwhile?
Objects found on the beach are fascinating because they could have come from anywhere, and we just don’t know how long they have been travelling the seas. They carry stories with them, hidden clues. The ocean can produce a beautiful aging effect.
Rubbish is pretty disgusting, and not at all fascinating. You just want to throw it away, but what really is away? In the end, it often winds up on a beach.
I think that by properly observing these marine finds, we raise the question of what is important and what makes up our values.
Has making this film affected how you see oceans? What do you usually do on sea shores?
I have always spent my summers in the outer archipelago, where there is no running water or electricity, so living by the rules of the sea and at the mercy of the weather have been absolute experiences. I have also always inspected what the currents have brought with them on the shore.
Whilst making the film for example, I started finding plastic granules under rocks, something I never used to notice before. I’ve also noticed that I’ve changed how I observe the coastline.
Being by the sea is a truly divine experience, because you feel both your fragility and your momentary existence. I want this experience to be part of the film.
Minna Nurmi (Translation: Lydia Taylerson)
Walk the Tideline is a part of DocPoint’s Oceans/Waters selection, which highlights films focusing on oceans and waters – and their importance to people.