Islanders Image


By Abhishek Sharma | October 28, 2022

Amidst Mackinac Island’s misty cold breeze and snow-capped roads, electronic-pop duo Brian and Jane Spencer collect sounds and create music. They want their next album to embrace and embody Jane’s hometown’s spirit. FINKEL, as the duo calls itself, has allowed filmmakers Craig Harmer and Joe Zook to join them on this little retreat to their home and chronicle their journey of creating their latest album. Both the album and the documentary are named Islanders.

The film presents very mixed sentiments after it’s over. To fully understand and realize what FINKEL intends to convey, there are several dots to connect. First, we meet many people who are part of the band’s life, the inspirations for their creations. Then, to further deepen Spencers’ connection to the island, there are overlapping phrases from poetry selections derived from The Mackinac Suite and Seven Wonders of Mackinac and Other Amazement. As a voiceover recites words from these collections, the camera takes viewers on a tour of Mankinac’s icy landscapes and traversing through snow-laden trees.

“…electronic-pop duo Brian and Jane Spencer collect sounds and create music.”

While well shot, this does mean that individuals new to the place and FINKEL’s music will find it challenging to make a connection between all of this. But that doesn’t mean that Islanders is not appealing. At its best, the film introduces FINKEL to the uninitiated, as it features a background score comprising a blend of the band’s compositions. This includes a complete recital of their song I Am Machine. The electronic-pop combinations of western instruments and the natural sounds the pair collects from their walks across Mackinac are melodiously funky. As such, for all it’s worth, your take away from this documentary will be FINKEL and their music.

While being FINKEL’s story, the film is not just an unscripted venture. Harmer and Zook have shot this film as a concept, offering audiences a glimpse into Brian and Jane Spencer’s lifestyle. Mackinac Island plays a central location, as the album’s creation is intercut with shots of Mackinac’s snowy landscapes and cross-island travels on snow bikes. And there are glimpses of never-ending layers of white ice while the duo, covered head-to-toe in winter apparel, try to let that atmosphere sink in.

Islanders (2022)

Directed: Craig Harmer, Joe Zook


Starring: Jane Spencer, Brian Spencer, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

Islanders Image

"…will bring you a newfound interest in electro-pop music..."

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