Abyssal (2021): Navigating Time and Space in A Pile of Shipwrecks

— Film Review
FFD 2023

In old abandoned ships, the shipbreakers are the last inhabitants. They are ensnared by the ship’s silence while dreaming far away from Bahía Honda. Ironically, a ship that has the potential for their escape, instead they must be torn and destroyed.

Abyssal (Alejandro Alonso, 2021) brings the audience into the depths of the human soul, exploring lives using a shipbreaking yard in Bahía Honda, Cuba, as the background. Starting from a man going up a spiral staircase, his face is hidden in the shadows, breaking the silence only by the sound of his footsteps. Not long after, he takes us to a place in Cuba filled with old ships awaiting their destiny.

Looking at an interview at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, the filmmaker unexpectedly found the unique location for this documentary through Google Earth. When looking at Bahía Honda, Cuba, he found something unusual. That area looks like uncommon rectangular-shaped pieces. Later, upon further investigation, it turned out to be old, abandoned ships that were undetected by the satellite eyes. The discovery inspired the filmmaker to embark on this work and explore the lives of the shipbreakers, a rarely known occupation hidden from satellite view.

As we all know, art is a freely interpreted work. There are many hidden symbols inside it, and besides presenting the journey of a ship being destroyed, Abyssal (2021) can be a reflection of human life. Raudel, the protagonist of this documentary, appears as an embodiment of a fragile human desire to reach freedom as if symbolising dreams that are constrained by fate. He stands on the threshold between freedom and responsibility that ties him to the shipbreaking yard.

The grand old ships become a symbol of escape, creating images of alluring adventure in the vast sea, but at the same time, these ships also become a prison for those who must destroy them. Raudel faces this paradox, trying to comprehend and embrace his hope while facing the inevitably harsh reality.

Looking closely at the various lights reflected in the film–the towering lighthouse, the ship’s lights passing through the ocean, the lights shining the ship’s passageway, to the sunlight creeping on the horizon–everything becomes a metaphor that transforms both physical space and character. They give a new dimension, replacing the silence and darkness with the light’s beauty, trying to say that in every dark corner that has ever existed, there is beauty waiting to be revealed as if framing the human’s journey in a world full of questions.

Abyssal (2021) is selected in Docs Docs: Short! Festival Film Dokumenter 2023. (Tirza Kanya) (Vanis/Catharina Maida M)


Film Details
Abyssal (Abisal)
Alejandro Alonso Estrella | 30 Minutes | 2021 | Cuba, France | Color | 17+

Screening Schedule
12.05 | Auditorium IFI-LIP | 14.30 WIB
12.08 | Gedung ex Bioskop Permata | 15.30 WIB