Siphonophore

extended Synopsis

INOKE is a 12 year old boy who lives with his mother, his father and his baby sister in a community that floats on the ocean. Beneath the floating village lies a coral reef rich in living organisms. Now that he is of age, Inoke has joined the adult members of the community in their regular freedive hunting sprees and has become an excellent diver. Inoke loves his life in the community, but there is one thing that bothers him, and that is his mother’s insistence at sharing his catch with everyone else, including Seline, an old woman who lives on the fringes of society due to her strange behaviour and the scary rumours that surround her. Inoke finds the thought of being ousted from the village terrifying and so he makes a personal vow to always be “useful” to the community and thus to never end up like Seline. One hunting day ends badly when Inoke’s mother is lifted unconscious from the sea. No one knows what has happened to her and Inoke is horrified by everyone’s resignation at accepting that she will die. For the first time in his life, Inoke feels alienated and betrayed by his people, and he begins to seek solutions on his own. He does the unthinkable and goes to Seline’s dwelling for help. Seline begins to recount a story about a difficult period in her life, when she was so weak and sick that she thought she would die at any second. She then thanks her ancestors for having guided her frail body to the ocean where a magnificent creature had enveloped her and brought her back to life. Inoke listens in awe and hangs on to every word of Seline moreso because she has a strange scar across her shoulders as proof.  Inoke runs back to his family’s hut and embraces his unconscious mother and cries. He then quietly dives in the sea and goes beyond the coral reef and kicks his way further down into the darkness. At this point, he stops kicking further as he  becomes disoriented and is not sure which way is further down. He begins to see a long iridescent tentacle-like structure that approaches him and caresses him. Inoke looks at it in wonder at the rest of the creature that appears and envelopes his body. 

Siphonophore

note of intention

A siphonophore is a colonial organism that appears as one body but is in fact constituted by numerous individual organisms which cannot survive on their own. It comes in all forms and sizes and its bioluminescence gives it a magnificent colour. Its appearance and function inspired us to develop a story that takes place in a floating village with a similar way of functioning: the village is made of many small floating huts made out of any type of material found in the ocean, attached together to form one complex-looking structure. Its inhabitants are mostly hunters who are able to dive underwater for a long time. This spectacular ability was inspired by the Badjao tribe of the Philippines, a tribe that is sadly losing their freediving customs due to overfishing and climate change. Inoke is at the center of this universe, happy to contribute to it and to trade it for guaranteed security and a sense of purpose. When this harmony is broken by his mother's accident, he sets out on a quest to heal her. What Inoke attempts to do in history is no different from what man has attempted to do since the dawn of mankind: defy death. Countless myths, rituals and cultures emerged from this act from all over the world, and here we try to articulate death, whose language and modus operandi are still difficult to understand by those who are still alive. 

Although death is very present in our story, we feel that the main theme is actually the ambiguity that is found everywhere: within Seline’s personality (is she a prophet or a madwoman?) to the depths of the ocean and to death itself. These elements help Inoke get through a difficult time in his life, a time when the established customs and system of his village could not help him, a time that allowed him to go beyond his immediate world to really understand how vast the world is. In real life, the creatures that live in the depths of the ocean have an otherworldly presence. Unlike earthly creatures, they are not so dependent on light; their movement indicates a different temporality and their longevity is incomparably greater. Their beauty and strange anatomy gives the impression that they are extraterrestrial, or even divine, beings. One could consider them to be more extraterrestrial than the extraterrestrials themselves, especially as the depths of the ocean remain more unexplored and more difficult to observe and understand than the cosmos. Unlike the cosmos, the ocean embodies primitivism. Inoke diving deep into the ocean in search of an answer is no different to an astronaut navigating in space, except for the fact that Inoke is able to explore all of this with his own body rather than through technology. 

Our intention is to highlight Inoke’s journey from avoiding ambiguity (as illustrated by his aversion to Seline's mere presence) to accepting ambiguity as part of life, as symbolized by the last scene in the story where Inoke is enveloped by the mysterious creature that is the siphonophore. At that moment, it passes a point where it reaches another state and effectively dies. This is clear to us, as director and screenwriter; and yet the public cannot determine when INOKE dies, or even if he does. This ending reflects the ambiguity of the transition: the transition of light in the different depths of the ocean to the transition between life and death. We are all strangers to our own deaths. We experience death as we understand it through the loss of a loved one rather than through the loss of ourselves.

This story is open to all types of public, young and old, and offers a fresh and sensitive glimpse into the journey that comes with accepting death, something we all have to come to terms with at some point in our lives.