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 record their journey of creating their latest album and making this movie, both named Islanders.
Islanders present very mixed sentiments after one has completed the documentary. If one wants 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 FINKEL’s life and their said inspirations for their next creations. To further deepen FINKEL’s 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 keeps taking you on a tour of Mankinac’s icy landscapes and traversing through snow-laden trees. An individual new to the place and FINKEL’s style of music will find it challenging to make a connection between all of this. But that doesn’t mean that Islanders is not appealing.
“Electro-pop musicians FINKEL travels to Mackinac to create their new album inspired by the island’s nature and life.”
For the best part, it introduces FINKEL to the uninitiated. The film features a background score comprising a blend of FINKEL’s composition and the complete recital of their song I Am Machine. As the film captures the husband-wife duo, we listen to some of their finest compositions. The electronic-pop blends of western instruments and the natural sounds the pair collects from their walks across Mackinac are melodiously funky. There are parts of the documentary that are likable, and there are some that are not. Still, FINKEL itself is a great discovery for the audience through Islanders. Hence, for what’s worth, you will take away FINKEL’s music through this documentary.
While being FINKEL’s story, Islanders is not just shot as an unscripted venture. Directors Harmer and Zook have shot this film as a concept and a lifestyle that offers Brian and Jane inspiration from the simplest things. Mackinac Island plays a central point in the documentary’s plot. The film intercuts 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 Brian and Jane, covered head-to-toe in winter apparel, try to let that atmosphere sink in.