Olen, Germany, UK, 2014 | 77 Minutes | A film by Eliza Kubarska

WALKING UNDER WATER takes us under the waves to walk with the last compressor divers from the Badjao tribe in Mabul Island.


    Alexan, the last compressor diver on Mabul Island near Borneo, teaches 10 year old Sari everything he knows, from dangerous fishing techniques and the temptations of the tourist economy to wisdom about the underwater world.

    WALKING UNDER WATER presents the Badjao tribe’s ancient traditions and collective experience as a magical narrative, spinning the urgent pressures and problems they face into a hybrid of fantasy, fiction and fact. The Badjao people once lived like fish, spending the majority of their time on the water, but with the encroachment of modern civilization, that way of life has become nearly extinct.

    Breathtaking underwater photography emphasizes this loss and the drought of enchantment on dry land. While Alexan refuses to accept that the world of his ancestors is gone, Sari is torn between his longing to be a fisherman like his uncle and the tug of the new world in the form of a nearby resort. Badjao always survived from fishing, but now they cannot compete with big fishing vessels so to fish more effectively, they use the most dangerous methods as compressor diving. A compressor diver dives down to 30 meters, only with a rubber pipe in his mouth and Oxygen provided from a boat above, supported by a usually poorly working engine. Unaware of decompression sickness they believe that pain is caused by evil spirits who, if offended, can harm or make them die.

    This is a story about a 10 years old boy Sari who wants to learn how to be a compressor diver. Through this personal story, we present the dramatically changing landscape of the paradise islands and its people in Borneo.


    Eliza Kubarska is an award-winning Polish film director. Graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts (sculpture, video art) and Wajda School of Film Direction in Warsaw (Poland); scholarship holder of the Polish Ministry of Culture and Arts. She is a documentary filmmaker focusing on human stories with an ecological background.


    Eliza Kubarska

    Piotr Rosołowski

    Underwater Photography
    Lisa Strohmayer

    Bartosz Pietras, PSM

    Franciszek Kozłowski

    Monika Braid

    Stefan Kloos
    Maciej Ostoja – Chyżyński
    Filip Kovčin
    Eliza Kubarska

    Michał Jacaszek

    Sound Design
    Franciszek Kozlowski

    Colour Grading
    Przemek Niedzwiecki

    Agnieszka Nieroda

    Braidmade Films

    Kloos & Co. Medien
    Vertical Visions

    Commissioning Editor ZDF/ARTE
    Ann-Christin Hornberger


    Polish Film Institute
    East European Forum 2012
    EDN Docs in Thessaloniki 2012
    Documentary Campus Crossing Borders 2012


    Hot Docs International Documentary Festival 2014
    Special Jury Prize

    Planete Doc Review 2014
    Honorable Mention

    Palm Springs International Film Festival 2015
    John Schlesinger Award

    GreenMe Global Festival 2016
    Children’s Jury Award


    World Premiere
    Hot Docs International Documentary Festival 2014, Canada

    Further Festivals (Selection)
    DOK Leipzig 2014, Germany
    Festival dei Popoli – International Documentary Film Festival Florenz 2014, Italy
    Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival 2015, Czech Republic
    Los Angeles Film Festival 2014, USA
    Planet+ Doc Film Festival 2014, Poland
    Zurich Film Festival 2014, Switzerland
    Vancouver International Film Festival 2014, Canada
    Planete Doc Review International Film Festival 2014, Poland
    Reykjavik International Flm Festival 2014, Iceland
    BFI London Film Festival 2014, UK
    Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival 2014, Brazil
    Palm Springs International Film Festival 2015, USA
    Denver International Film Festival 2014, USA
    DocPoint Helsinki Documentary Film Festival 2015, Finland
    Traverse City Film Festival 2014, USA
    Camden International Film Festival 2014, Maine, USA
    DHFest Mexico 2014, Mexico
    Margaret Mead Film Festival 2014, New York, USA
    Sarasota Film Festival 2015, USA
    Visions Du Réel 2015, Nyon, Switzerland
    Anûû-rû Aboro International Documentary Film Festival 2015, New Caledonia, France
    Pärnu International Documentary and Anthropology Film Festival 2015, Estonia
    GreenMe Global Festival 2016, Germany