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Ann Arbor Film Festival 2017

 

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of Antarctica. Anyone reading that form "would have thought we were bums on the street," Griffith says. "And yet we were living the best possible lives we could live."

That sense of revelry in conditions that would terrify most other human beings pervades the fascinating Following Seas, which screens March 25 at the 55th Ann Arbor Film Festival. The film opens with the stunning story of Griffith, husband Bob, and young son Reid getting shipwrecked on a tiny, donut-shaped island in French Polynesia. The family enlists the help of two prisoners marooned on the island to salvage their boat's engine, using a hoist made from scratch, before being rescued--and briefly questioned under suspicion that they were nuclear spies. It's one wild story after another from there, most told by the elderly Griffith with good humor and a persistent enigmatic smile.

Perhaps even more remarkable than the Griffiths' adventures is how thoroughly they were documented. Most of the tales recounted in the film took place in the '60s and '70s, and at first it appears that the filmmakers have matched period-appropriate bits of stock footage to her stories. In fact, the Griffiths shot much of the footage themselves, for a series of documentaries they produced to help finance their adventures. By combining Griffith's tales with footage the family shot decades ago, Kelley and Williams struck gold. Following Seas is a compelling tribute to lives lived beyond society's traditional borders, laced with bittersweet nostalgia.

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