New documentary explores Fogo Island's blend of past and future

Strange and Familiar: Architecture on Fogo Island tells the story of the island's mission to revitalize the community through a series of striking new buildings, including the now-famous Fogo Island Inn.
Director Marcia Connolly says she was inspired by the innovative way Fogo Island managed to revitalize its economy, while still holding onto its culture. (CBC)

A new documentary on Fogo Island's architecture project is making waves in the film community.

Strange and Familiar: Architecture on Fogo Island tells the story of Fogo Island's mission to revitalize the community through a series of striking new buildings, including the now-famous Fogo Island Inn.

Architect Todd Saunders designed several innovative artist studios on Fogo Island, which now attract artists from around the globe.

"They're using art and architecture in combination with tourism to bring about a economic revitalization," said Marcia Connolly, one of the directors.

Her film features conversations with Zita Cobb, the brainchild behind the project, and chief architect Todd Saunders.

Connolly said that she was fascinated when she heard about the architecture being built on Fogo Island, particularly by how much the project rooted itself in the local culture and history.

"They tried to create a way to propel themselves into their future that was respectful of their past and present," she said.

"Many of the materials that were used in the construction of the building are materials that have been used on Fogo Island for as long as they've been making buildings...they preserve place, but also in a way that helps their economy."

Saunders' bold, contemporary designs now attracts tourists from around the world.

The film unfolds as the Fogo Island Inn, nears completion.

Connolly's film unfolds as the now-famous Fogo Island Inn nears completion. (Courtesy Saunders Architecture)

"The film talks about the cultural flattening everywhere, the eroding of place," said Connolly.

There's a real fear that very soon you won't be able to tell the difference between China and Newfoundland."

Fogo Island, however, has managed to do old things in new ways, said Connolly, and has been tremendously successful at it.

The film, which premiered in March, played at the St. John's International Women's Film Festival on Friday.

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