Flowers for Jeju

A film by Zena Holloway. Sound & Music by me.

They are part of a tradition that has been passed down from mother to daughter for a 1000 years. They are the Korean mermaids, or the haenyeo, of Jeju Island who venture into frigid depths of up to 20 meters without any breathing equipment, braving the dangers of the ocean, as they scour the seabed for abalone, octopus, and other seafood.
The haenyeo believe we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, but that we borrow it from our children. Fierce guardians of the sea, they only harvest what they can carry with their two hands, but sadly they are a dying breed. The patterns they used to work are breaking. The quality of the ocean is deteriorating rapidly, and despite protests, the construction of a new naval base is under way, which further threatens the island’s marine ecology.
These sirens hang weightless, deep in the ocean, on the threshold between this world and the next. They are a vessel for stories that span generations, timeless stories that tell of suffering and survival, but most of all, love. In the end, what rises to the surface is the unflinching love they carry for the sea and the legacy that we are leaving for our children. It weaves a human story that swims against the tide.