David & Albert Maysles
Review by Rumsey Taylor
Posted on 11 July 2004
Source Plexifilm DVD
Features: 5 Films About Christo & Jeanne-Claude
Reviews: Christo’s Valley Curtain
Reviews: Running Fence
Reviews: Christo in Paris
Islands serves as the Maysles’ most inclusive film about the conception and construction of a Christo and Jeanne-Claude work. The project is an attempt to “surround” (not “wrap”) a series of islands in Miami’s Biscayne Bay with vibrant, pink polypropylene fabric. Given the magnitude of this proposal, in addition to the effort to permit its construction in an urban American location, permission is not quickly gained, and the Maysles follow Christo and Jeanne-Claude as they lobby other projects.
The principle concern of Miami is the permanent benefit of the project. The islands (one of which is deemed “beer-can island” by locals) are unexotic, man-made barriers to reduce the Atlantic current. There must be a profit to nourish the resource. Each of Christo’s projects is self-financed (Jeanne-Claude oversees the sale of his preliminary drawings and collages) and includes no “rental” of the environment. He is at first denied permission.
Christo returns to France, and resumes an aspiration to wrap the Pont Neuf (this is further detailed in Christo in Paris, which reuses footage from this film) and the Reichstag in Berlin. After some forward negotiations in both European cities, he and Jeanne-Claude return to Miami.
As a compromise Christo agrees to the sale of original and autographed photographs of the surrounded islands, the profit from which will entirely go to maintaining the coastal environment. Once permitted, Christo amasses an army of workers in pink sweatshirts (each of his projects include work attire for employees that is coordinated with the color of the project).
The surrounded islands are deviant within Christo’s oeuvre, as they are largely inaccessible, even protected. (Even his Running Fence was easily traversed.) Christo selects and speaks of his materials carefully; in many cases, his works are to be experienced and felt. His Islands, however, are too remote for easy inspection. Regardless, as a sight alone, Islands is undoubtedly the most surreal of Christo’s works.