Type: 'documentary' film (13 minutes, Portuguese with English subtitles)
Writer / director: Jorge Furtado
Page reference: Pavalow, M. (2012) Ilha das Flores. followthethings.com (http://followthethings.com/ilhadasflores.html last accessed <insert date here>)
[What’s this film about?] A tomato. (Source: danilopsoares 2006 np link).
The film is an intriguing commentary on humanity disguised into a story about a tomato, from it being grown to being thrown in the landfill. There is a lot of beautiful (yet devastating) footage (Source: regardemylasheskgm 2005 np link).
A tomato is planted, harvested and sold at a supermarket, but it rots and ends up in the trash. Ends? No. ISLAND OF FLOWERS follows it up until its real end, among animals, trash, women and children. And the difference between tomatoes, pigs and human beings becomes clear (Source: Anon 2010 np link).
Beginning at Mr Suzuki's tomato field, the tomato is then sold to a supermarket, where it is acquired by Mrs Anete, a perfume saleswoman, together with some pork. Each exchange requires the presence of money, which is, together with the tomato, the constant element in the story. Mrs Anete intends to prepare a tomato sauce for the pork, but, having considered one of Mr Suzuki's tomatoes inadequate, she throws it in the garbage. Together with the rest of the garbage, the tomato is taken to Isle of Flowers (Ilha das Flores), Porto Alegre's landfill. There, the organic material considered adequate is selected as food for pigs. The rest, which is considered inadequate for the pigs, is given to poor women and children to eat (Source: Anon nda np link).
In its depiction of a tomato's journey from Japanese-run plantation to supermarket to middle-class ‘Roman Catholic’ kitchen to garbage-can to the ominous Brazilian island of the film's title, Isle of Flowers allows the spectator to glimpse a trajectory that neatly delineates the various social fields imbricated in the consumerist landscape of the last century, from the highest corporate echelons to the poverty-stricken bottom-feeders (Source: Diffrient 2007 np link).
The film follows the vector of a tomato that is thrown out by a fictional Brazilian perfume seller, Mrs. Anete. .... The parts of waste management are disassembled and reassembled from the lens of a tomato. We learn, through the course of the cartoonish documentary, of how the tomato is picked, who picks it, where it is sold, how money is exchanged for vegetables, where the rotten tomato travels to, and how it is sorted through after it reaches the landfill. Upon arriving at the dump, the tomato is sorted out by the owner of a pig. Children of a shantytown near the dump are left to sort through whatever is deemed unfit for pigs, a pathetic remainder of human and animal consumption. The contrast between settings of consumption is intentionally stark. The perfume seller, Mrs Anete, flashes a photogenic smile across her face, joined by shots of both her wedding pictures and her middle class family gathered around the dinner table. They eat, we are told, sauce from the tomatoes that were fit for eating. The primary effort by director Jorge Furtado is to offer through bitter irony (there are no flowers on the island of flowers, we are reminded) a picture of the inhumanity of consumption and extreme class inequality. In order to do this, the supposed private act of waste making is made an unavoidably public issue (Source: Gambetta 2009 p.28-30 link).
Ilha das Flores, or Island of Flowers, is an island in a lake in Brazil which serves as a garbage dump for the nearby city of Porto Alegre. Each day hired workers sort the tons of garbage into organic and inorganic categories. The organic garbage consists of rotting fruit and vegetables and paper. This is then dumped into fenced areas where more hired hands separate out what is still considered of adequate quality to be consumed by the many pigs which are also kept on the island. Once this has been removed the hoards of poor and hungry women and children who have been waiting patiently are allowed into the fenced areas for five minutes to try to salvage what they can to eat out of what is left of the garbage. Needless to say, the mounds of garbage have been subject from the beginning to all kinds of contamination. The film's matter of fact, even humorous narration, enlivened with animation, belies the appalling subject matter. A trenchant commentary on contemporary moral values (Source: NYU nd np link).
Furtado efficiently presents a very complex essay in 13 minutes on the politics of food, class divisions, freedom and human behavior using a fast-moving collage of images and equally rapid satirical narration (Source: Anon 2006 p17).
[The film] tracks the path of a tomato ... with the help of a monotone voiceover and a collection of bizarre images. While a very humorous film, the message it delivers about how human beings treat each other is anything but such. ... A constant and verbose offnarrator guides the viewer through the life of a tomato (Source: Anon nda np link).
Ilha das Flores is a parable of poverty in Brazil. This short film presents the stark realities of the haves and the have-nots. Director Jorge Furtado lures the viewer into a seemingly innocent chain of logic with a powerful conclusion (Source: Anon ndc np link).
At the conclusion ... a voiceover plaintively yet matter-of-factly intones, ‘Freedom is a word the human dream feeds on, that no one can explain or fail to understand.’ These words, muttered during the film's slow-motion crescendo, are accompanied by images of gaunt-framed gleaners and trash-pickers of all ages wading through a fly-infested wastescape - a rubbish heap piled high with rotting food and empty containers. Layered atop these images is the sound of an electric guitar that screeches and wails like an echo of some past colonial violence - a distant signifier perhaps of the victimization and human-rights violations that persist in various parts of the world despite the humanitarian tide of this postcolonial era. Besides encapsulating the many ideas percolating throughout Isle of Flowers, the last few words of the film ironically underscore the hardscrabble realities faced by men, women and children who envisage a life far removed from the terrestrial stink of the pigsty. The film, which tracks the life of a ‘hand-me-down’ tomato, culminates with this bleak, bottom-rung image. As what would appear to be the final resting place of the tomato in its culinary pilgrimage, the trash site represents an historical terminus - a kind of neo-colonial contact zone between marginalized people (past and present) and their oppressors. The latter group is symbolized by a ‘benevolent’ landowner who allots ten minutes each day for the island's malnourished masses to scavenge through his fenced-in property for tomatoes not fit for pigs to eat (Source: Diffrient 2007 np link).
A powerful, unpredictable piece on man's inhumanity to man ... A pungent social satire, the visual poem reads like a comic political essay written by James Joyce in a mock documentary style ... A remarkably unconventional use of media as parable (Choice Magazine cited in Anon ndb np link).
ISLAND OF FLOWERS ... is a political film that makes you laugh with sarcasm from beginning to end. In only 13 minutes, it says everything one needs to know about who is responsible for the massacre of the planet Earth, starting from trash and one tomato (Silvestri 1991 np cited in Anon ndb np link).
The critique of unbridled consumerism and commodity fetishism [is] explicit in Furtado's thickly condensed fifteen-minute epic ... (Source: Diffrient 2007 np link).
This film depicts, in an indirect but still quite powerful manner, key principles in the Marxist / critical perspective. In particular, it illustrates the logic of capitalism, a logic that reduces some human beings (without money) to a position lower than pigs (Source: Lim 2009 np link).
If there is one out there who already read the ‘Das Kapital’ of Marx, this film might look like well mastered image of that great book. Apart from this, you can feel the genius in this film's montage. A real gem for short film category. Anything, you just touch, buy, eat, drink or listen to is in fact not just itself. In this case, Jorge Furtado tells us what a single tomato hides in itself (Source: chimera_s 2006 np link).
Described by Jorge Furtado as, a letter to a Martian who knows nothing of the earth and its social systems, Isle of Flowers uses animation, archival footage and parody to indict the distribution of wealth and food around the world. ...In structuring his work as a thesaurus of interconnected definitions, Furtado recycles the audiovisual clichés of Brazilian television commercials, stock footage, newspaper adverts and state radio while parodying the genres of the television quiz show and the educational film with its voice-over. Collage becomes an aesthetic of garbage that offers a vantage point from which to indict society (Source: ICO nd np link).
[A] summary [of the film] gives little sense of the experience of the film, of its play with documentary form and expectations. First, the film's visuals - old TV commercials, newspaper advertisements, health care manuals - themselves constitute a kind of throwaway, visual garbage. (In the silent period of cinema, we are reminded, films were seen as transient entertainments rather than artistic durables, and therefore as not worth saving; during the First World War they were even recycled for their lead content.) Many of the more banal shots - of pigs, of tomatoes, and so forth - are repeated, in defiance of the cinematic decorum which suggests that shots should be 1) beautiful, and 2) not repeated. Second, the film, whose preamble states that ‘this is not a fiction film,’ mocks the positivist mania for factual detail by offering useless, gratuitous precision: ‘We are in Belem Novo, city of Porto Alegre, state of Rio Grande do Sul. More precisely, at thirty degrees, twelve minutes and thirty seconds latitude south, and fifty one degrees eleven minutes and twenty three seconds longitude west.’ Third, the film mocks the apparatus and protocols of rationalist science, through absurd classificatory schemas - ‘Dona Anete is a Roman Catholic female biped mammal’ and tautological syllogisms - ‘Mr. Suzuzki is Japanese, and therefore a human being.’ Fourth, the film parodies the conventions of the educational film, with its authoritative voice-over and quiz-like questions (’What is a history quiz?’). The overture music is a synthesized version of the theme song of ‘Voice of Brazil,’ the widely-detested official radio program that has been annoying Brazilians since the days of Vargas. Humor becomes a kind of trap; the spectator who begins by laughing ends up, if not crying, at least reflecting very seriously. Opposable thumbs and highly developed telencephalon, we are told, have given ‘human beings the possibility of making many improvements in their planet;’ a shot of a nuclear explosion serves as illustration. Thanks to the universality of money, we are told, we are now ‘Free!;’ a snippet of the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ punctuates the thought. Furtado invokes the old carnival motif of pigs and sausage, but with a political twist; here the pigs, given inequitable distribution down the food chain, eat better than people. In this culinary recycling, we are given a social examination of garbage; the truth of a society is in its detritus. The socially peripheral points to the symbolically central. Rather than having the margins invade the center as in carnival, here the center creates the margins, or better, there are no margins; the tomato links the urban bourgeois family to the rural poor via the sausage and the tomato within a web of global relationality (Source: Stam 1998 np link).
Here's a work that definitely proves how exciting and questioning a short movie picture can be. Acting as a director, writer and producer, Jorge Furtado couragely aims a dazzling machinegun at issues as assorted as religion, Holocaust, Brazilian government, poverty, capitalism, and how human intelligence has been used throughout the ages. Using a dialectical method, and narrating the story in a way that ‘even a Martian would understand’, in the words of the author, the film forges a real cinematographical theorem of Brazilian deplorable situation, borrowing as the stage a neighbourhood in the city of Porto Alegre (one of Brazil's most developed ones, by the way). The degrading scenario, however, would apply to any community on the world in which the effects of money (or its lack) on the lives of its inhabitants are more visible. In the movie's touching final take, Furtado destroys the bourgeois concept of Freedom, quoting a line from one of Brazil's greatest poetesses, Cecilia Meirelles, and leaves us wondering whether modern 'civilisation' is as far as the human intellect can take us (Source: Cavalcanti 2000 np link).
Isle of Flowers, like a caffeine-jolted version of a Chris Marker visual essay, immediately sinks its rhetorical hooks into the audience through the filmmaker's bricolage tactics. By stitching together a panoply of images associated with throwaway culture, and by superimposing them atop religious and historical iconography, Furtado critically tweaks our almost sacrosanct devotion to consumer goods with a pixilated intensity rarely achieved in cinema. Newspaper advertisements, sunglasses, Coke insignias and binoculars all junk the frame with a funkiness associated with ‘garbology’ - an art-historical neologism alluded to in film scholar Robert Stam's illuminating essay, ‘Hybridity and the Aesthetics of Garbage: The Case of Brazilian Cinema.’ In his discussion of Isle of Flowers, Stam states that the film's recuperative tactics bring to mind the ways in which the detritus and flotsam of the Western world are transmogrified into art within Afro-diasporic contexts - a project of recycling and re-aestheticizing that imparts significance onto something once deemed worthless. The film foregrounds how garbage ‘looks bad’ to the eyes of the upwardly mobile bourgeoisie. The bruised tomato at the heart of the film is an eyesore. It emits an offensive odor. Trash attacks the senses. Hence the commodification of flower-scented perfume, which Mrs. Anecci - one of the film's half-dozen characters - sells door-to-door to earn money with which to buy fresher fruits and vegetables. Mobilizing its own garbage-like, collage-hodgepodge aesthetic, the film playfully blends Monty Pythonesque animation, archival film footage, pedagogical slide-show presentations and a voice-of-God commentary (the speaker of which, like an aural alumnus from the BBC cult series Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, commands perfect Brit-speak elocution while conveying surreally unpredictable wordplay). The rhetorical disposition of the film shifts from flippancy to absolute seriousness. The narrator's hilarious tautology (delivering absurdist lines such as ‘Mr. Suzuki is Japanese, and therefore a human being,’ and ‘Money was created in the seventh-century before Christ, Christ was a Jew, and Jews are human beings’) imitates the arbitrary causality of contiguous elements and leads us into a laughter-trap that snaps shut when immediately cut to images of the Holocaust and Hiroshima's mushrooming A-bomb (rendering garbage piles of human bodies) - cynically referred to as great human endeavors springing out of our ‘highly developed telencephalons.’ As serious as these themes are, however, the film steers clear of sledgehammered didactics and self-righteous polemics; and, in the final analysis, functions not only as a treatise on social injustices but also as a parable about the human condition - one that, in a zap of solar perplexity, simultaneously blinds and enlightens us to the fact of an organic or material object's finitude. Fluctuating between two ontological poles, that of the disposable and that of the recyclable, the hand-me-down - whether a tomato or a human being - eventually either perishes or fades away in the harsh light of oblivion (Source: Diffrient 2007 np link).
Furtado's edited collage is structured as a social lexicon or glossary, or better, a surrealist enumeration of words such as ‘pigs,’ ‘money,’ and ‘human beings.’ The definitions are interconnected and multi-chronotopic; they lead out into multiple historical frames and historical situations. In order to follow the trajectory of the tomato, we need to know the origin of money: ‘Money was created in the seventh century before Christ. Christ was a Jew, and Jews are human beings.’ As the audience is still laughing from this abrupt transition, the film cuts directly to the photographic residue of the Holocaust, where Jews, garbage-like, are thrown into death-camp piles. (The Nazis, we are reminded, had their own morbid forms of recycling.) Throughout, the film moves back and forth between minimalist definitions of the human to the lofty ideal of freedom evoked by the film's final citation: ‘Freedom is a word the human dream feeds on, that no one can explain or fail to understand’ (Source: Stam 1998 np link).
Let us take a scene from Jorge Furtado’s film Ilha das Flores (Brazil,1989). This film is a radical example of how fiction (narrative) and non fiction (reference to reality) can mix within a documentary. In the scene, the director shows the image of one of the main ‘characters’ in the movie, - a tomato -, but also uses a narrative discourse to describe its activity as a commodity. One scene is an interior in which the director’s point of view shows a selection of elements: several tomatoes in a bag, a woman and a trash basket. Furtado’s discourse, or his order of these selected elements, is as follows: the woman takes one of these tomatoes, smells it and expresses her rejection through a facial gesture. The woman throws the tomato in the trash. The next shot is an image of four conventional symbols making the word LIXO, which in Portuguese means ‘trash.’ This simple action is an example of the creative use of narration (from a particular point of view and with a selected and an ordered structure) to provide a more complete representation of that reality (tomato). Now the viewer, through her catalytic participation, infers that the discarded tomato is different from the rest of the group because of its unpleasant odor; also, the viewer can identify the importance of the word LIXO and its meaning in the representation of that tomato. Nevertheless, the director is in fact not interested in just showing the plain reality of that tomato, but in using it as a metaphor to explore a social reality of the Brazilian society. Furtado follows the trajectory of that ‘tomato’ to take us to a subworld very present in today’s Latin America. The director plays a role as an intermediary between a simple reality that demands to be observed and another more complex reality that is latent, observed and is susceptible to be changed (Source: Mendoza 2010 p.28-9 link).
With originality and creative vigor, it dismantles the patronizing discourse which is the basis of most Brazilian documentaries. (...) an ingenious narrative building in a crescendo that takes your breath away. (...) ISLAND OF FLOWERS is the result of a very special alchemy, where everything works. It is full of humor, but it never turns tragedy (...) into a laughing matter. Jorge Furtado has invented the cruelty documentary (do Rosário Caetano 1989 cited in Anon ndb np link).
Furtado needed no more than 13 minutes to prove his theory ‘there's no God’, showed in the beginning of the movie. This movie is as raw as fresh meat and cuts like a knife. No more words to describe. You must see it for yourself. Believe me, after you watch this movie you won't forget it (Source: Jordani 2003 np link).
The human disaster of poverty is brilliantly depicted here. Anyone who wishes to stimulate an exploration of our human condition - of work and poverty, of despair and hunger, and of moral challenge - will find this an extraordinarily powerful and important video (Hopsital & Community Psychiatry 1989 np cited in Anon ndb np link).
Funny at first, demolishing in the end. When I saw this movie for the first time I spent the first minutes laughing: the editing is fast paced and the voice over explains one after another different concepts that apparently are barely connected. But in the end all grows into a perfectly mounted description of the economical and political aberrations of our times, all in less than 30 minutes (Source: Trufó 2000 np link).
It's about capitalism, told through the story of a tomato. But, thinking back on it, it was muchmore than just that tomato, that went into the making of the family's dinner, which was bought with money, which was acquired through the mother's perfume sales, which is an alcohol-based topical fragrance oil. If you're wondering what I'm talking about, this is how the film is paced. It is the very reason the word ‘Tangential’ was created. Furtado is so crafty at taking you to places you never think you'll go; from painfully hilarious irony (the monty python-esque first 5 minutes), to head-battering shock (the history of ‘the second’); just by mentioning a single word, you could travel from a dollar bill to a pile of emaciated bodies, within a matter of seconds. And none of the connections are far-fetched. His story is based on the theory of six degrees of separation, and how he arrives at those final, latent images of haunting truth is a trip that must be taken. If I ever get the chance to see this again, I will relish every second of it as if it were the first time. And if you are a student, you should check your campus library for ‘Ilha das flores’, because it is amazing (Source: Delaney 2001 np link).
Brazilian filmmaker Jorge Furtado makes a point in his appalling and beautifully disheartening documentary . . . With sincere irony, Furtado shows freedom is the problem of many people in a world in which only money and property count. When people don’t have money or property, how can they survive? Their problem seems to be they don’t have an owner. Just as dogs, or pigs, they wouldn’t die of hunger, nor live a life of the worst humiliation if they had somebody to provide them (Source: Bigatti 2008 np link).
Wow, different! it was entertaining and humourous, but by the end I just felt like being sick. It is so hard for me to understand the reality of people who have to sift through garbage to find food … that is just so far from the comfortable lifestyles we live in (Source: Redroom Studios 2008 np link).
It was made in 1989 but is still very relevant … funny and hard hitting social commentary at the same time (Source: shapeshift 2008 np link).
This is one of the best short films I’ve seen in ages, conveys such a powerful message so concisely (Source: ann 2008 np link).
A very different approach to getting to the roots of a social problem. Almost has that George Orwell-ish flavor (Source: CS 2008 np link).
The film has been denounced as ‘materialistic’ because one of its early credits displays the phrase ‘God doesn't exist’. Nevertheless, critic Jean-Claude Bernardet defined Isle of Flowers ‘a religious film’, and the Brazilian National Bishop Confederation awarded the film with the Margarida de Prata (Silver Daisy), calling it ‘the best Brazilian film of the year’ in 1990. In 1995, Isle of Flowers was chosen by the European critics as one of the 100 most important short films of the century (Source: Anon ndd np link).
I live in Porto Alegre, the city portrayed in this movie and this is a fake documentary. The director admited paying the people to do the acting. The whole ‘pig has priority’ thing is a scam. Sure they pick stuff from garbage, sure there are pigs, but the situation in wich owner of the site gives preference to pigs as in the movie is fake (Source: wabl 2007 np link).
But it doesn't make it less masterful... (Source: EdgarST 2007 np link).
The important part of this short masterpiece is not to depict the lives of poor people in Port Alegre but people in general. The vast differences in the worth of human life despite us being all the same. The scene where the people take what the farmer deemed unworthy for his pigs might well be staged but there are a lot of places on this planet where people have to survive on what other people, sometimes carelessly, throw away (Source: Xcobidoo 2010 np link).
Ilha das Flores is not a documentary. The film, in my opinion seems to try and explain the wide acceptance of money as a method to transfer payment to someone who can offer goods or services. It's funny to boot. That the refuse from city dwellers is worth something to someone who might own pigs, that the picked over garbage is worth something to people, that some people are so far down the ladder of opportunities because they don't have money. Money has a role, a purpose in our lives yet causes some great inequities in the overall rewards of life (Source: bobbyconn 2007 np link).
Maybe one point lacking, that would have fulfilled the whole story: it would be a fulfilled circle, in regard to story telling (if ever in this case) if the wages of workers of that Japanese tomato plant owner were incorporated. Ie, how much mister suzuki gains, and how much from this is given as salary, and so the bare profit for mister suzuki. It is forcing you to watch over and over again, and to think, what really makes a human being coming after a pig in this world, for the 'chance' of getting some decayed food. . . . And for last: this film told me the best Freedom definition i ever heard (Source: chimera_s 2006 np link).
Jorge Furtado’s quirky short film, Ilha das Flores (Isle of Flowers) (1989)... was an international success that called attention to ethical and political issues related to the economics of garbage and food distribution (Source: Hernández Adrián 2012 p.26).
The best film (of the) Gramado Film Festival lasts less than 20 minutes and tells the story of the journey of a tomato. After the showing of ILHA DAS FLORES (ISLAND OF FLOWERS), Embaixador Theater heard the biggest ovation this year. The directors of all the other films who had expectations of winning the Kikito for best film had to throw in their towels. (...) There is no doubt: ILHA DAS FLORES (ISLAND OF FLOWERS) is a masterpiece. After it, documentary will never be the same (Xexéo 1989 cited in Anon ndb np link).
There has never been anything like it in the 16 previous editions of the Gramado Film Festival: the entire audience of an overcrowded theater at the Palácio dos Festivais stood up and applauded, hysterically, a short film. (...) The 13 minute film ILHA DAS FLORES (ISLAND OF FLOWERS) hit the Festival with the force of a CITIZEN KANE: it is new, original, funny, hard hitting and, finally, moving, closing with a quote by Cecília Meirelles: 'freedom is a word that the human dream feeds on, that no one can explain or fail to understand (Pereira 1989 np cited in Anon nd np link).
This [kind] of didactic, ironic, and good-humoured self-reflexivity, ... created by Jorge Furtado in his short film Island of Flowers (Ilha das Flores, 1989), ... led to an entire school and today is regularly used in TV series, such as City of Men (Nagib 2004 p.242).
... perhaps it’s good to start acknowledging that abstract modern principles like ‘freedom’ or ‘equality’ were imaginations that - so far - have in very little solved people’s problems, guaranteed happiness or changed the world for the better. This is, of course, a nice controversial issue to begin this school year with. So I’m inviting you all to see Furtado’s film (it’s only 13 minutes), and to write and exchange your ideas and impressions on the topic. In the end, when discussing freedom, we’re pondering what we are, what we want to be, and what we can be as human beings (Source: Bigatti 2008 np link).
I'm using my personal VHS copy of this excellent short in my environmental awareness classes for high school, and students are always stroked by its accurate and intelligent issues. It always provides very large and useful discussion about environmental issues. With a very well humored screenplay and very well balanced use of fiction, documentary and table top animation, this short gives you an overview of what happens in our affluent society with any natural or produced good, with domestic and industrial waste and discussing some very special social issues. Interesting thing is that this short Ilha days Flores (Flower Island, in English pronounced Ilya Dass Floresh) it is not outdated, not growing old and unfortunately still shocking when you think of what is happening with all the waste in our society, when people are less important than the profit made (Source: eliepolti 2005 np link).
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Compiled by Maura Pavalow, edited by Daisy Livingston, Jack Parkin and Ian Cook (last updated March 2013). Page created for followthethings.com as coursework for the 'Anthropologies of Global Connection' course, Brown University.