Oscar-winning “My Octopus Teacher” documentarian Pippa Ehrlich is one of the voices behind a surprise A24 doc, streaming quietly on Prime Video since Friday, January 12.
Titled “My Mercury,” the film follows then-28-year-old conservationist Yves Chesselet, who sheds the comforts of modern living to relocate to the remote Mercury Island off the coast of Namibia. Chesselet is determined to bring 15,000 seals off the island and have Mercury Island solely be home to the critically endangered seabirds of the South Atlantic.
More from IndieWire
Chesselet’s sister Joelle Chesselet directed the documentary, with Ehrlich co-directing. Joelle said in a press statement, “My brother’s island saga has held me spellbound for three decades, challenging me to do justice to his tale of exhilaration, courage, positive masculinity and sacrifice. This journey has matured into what I see as a parable for our times, chronicling an intimate account of a re-wilding experiment and then zooming out to the choices we, as humans of the Anthropocene, are forced to face in a world that we’re destroying.”
Ehrlich explained her draw to “My Mercury” after watching a rough cut of the film in 2021.
“[I was] left feeling both awed and shocked. I was amazed by the compelling archive of authentic material that Joelle had gathered over such an extensive time period and days later I was still thinking about Yves and his experiences on Mercury and grappling with my own stance on it all,” Ehrlich said. “Having spent years as a conservation journalist before I became a filmmaker, I found the nature of Yves’ dilemma to be an engrossing ethical challenge, something that only those conservationists on the frontlines of the Anthropocene will ever have to face. As a storyteller who has always been captivated by the enchanting and healing elements of the wild, I was intrigued by the opportunity to tell a story that examined the harsher aspects of the natural world.”
The film is billed as an eco-psychological documentary from A24, with the official synopsis reading: “Key to this story are the private diaries Yves kept whilst on the island and 25 hours of his own video diaries, recorded by his closest confidante and soul mate, ‘Vid’, who along with the rare birds of Mercury kept him company for the eight years he lived there. We come to understand a man shaped not only by his love of nature, solitude and a spirit of adventure, but also by his troubled childhood and penchant for escapism.”
The morality of Chesselet’s mission is captured through diaries and archival and contemporary footage filmed on the island. Chesselet’s determination is explained as his personal “struggle to reverse a nature distorted by human greed.”
“Searching for Sugarman” producer George Chignell and A24 produced “My Mercury,” with Nick Shumaker and Mandy Chang executive producing. “Man on Wire” editor Jinx Godfrey is behind the final cut. Joelle Chesselet directed with Pippa Ehrlich co-directing.
“My Mercury” is now streaming on Prime Video.
Best of IndieWire