Mysterious islands


The French Mediterranean coastline is famous throughout the world, but less well known is a host of tiny island nuggets. They are islands or isles, scattered across the sea, and for centuries they were the essential guardians and waypoints for those shores. Out from the Phocaean city, Marseille, or the Côte d’Azur leaving out Corsica and the multitude of greater and lesser islands that surround it¾these protective outposts were primarily strategic locations under military occupation. The forts that stand there are a reminder of those days.

Battered by the winds, scorched by the sun, but most importantly, protected from human invasion, these islands have remained veritable miniature insular paradises with a wealth of natural wilderness that is completely preserved. When the days of conquest rolled by, to be replaced by those of leisure, people rediscovered these gems of nature and peace bathed in the crystal waters of the Mediterranean.


For many of us French Polynesia can be summed up in one picture postcard island: Tahiti, with its beaches of white sand, a lagoon, fabulous underwater world and an easy way of life. And yet, all over this vast maritime country, daily life for most people is no Robinson Crusoe idyll. Through the daily lives of a Tahitian botanist, a Marquesas doctor and a family of amateur sailors who left the Paris region to sail around the world, we meet the people who experience a different Polynesia, far from the clichés and the post cards. From the Marquesas to Tuamotu, by way of the Society archipelago, we discover the interior life of Polynesia, far from the beaten tracks of the tourists.


On the western coast of France, where the sun sets, its territory breaks into a myriad of islands, washed by the British Channel or the Atlantic. 797 islands and is lets, of which15, the Iles du Ponant, are inhabited year-round. Islands of all sizes, small clusters in Brittany, near or far, calm or wind swept, austere or gay. All harbor sites of exceptional beauty, secret and wild corners, preserved nature, and an authentic lifestyle imbued with the rich culture of the marine world.

Our adventure begins in the spring, at the end of winter’s hibernation. It’s the turning point between the "dead season" which favors the island’s isolation, and summer, which many here refer to as "the great overflow." In the spring, activity resumes slowly, but sites are still preserved from the crowd -with time to still discover them. While nature is beingre-newed, it's here, between May and June, that the islands reveal their most beautiful wildlife and most magnificent flora. This documentary reveals the hidden face of the islands and their singularities. It highlights the authenticity that emerges from these preserved places, and explores places beyond the reach of visitors, far from the marked trails that the crowds march all summer.


From Martinique to Saba, from Dominica to Saint Vincent - the Caribbean sea offer a wide range of islands with gorgeous decors. On the map, these islands seem close. In reality, history has separated them. Today, some are trying to forge closer ties between the islands with one goal: to find a common identity.

In Martinique, the Antillian members of the association Karisko, follow the trail of the American Indians, the first inhabitants of the Antilles. With a 59-foot canoe, they will attempt to cross the Dominican canal before heading to Guadeloupe – a maritime breakaway tribute to the "Sea Maroons". Marine mammals have always circulated between the islands. Two dolphins left the coast of Guadeloupe and moved to the harbor of Les Saintes two years ago. Nadège Gandilhon, a researcher at the University of the West Indies, seeks to protect them. She will, however, have to face serious cultural barriers.

On the island of Saint Vincent, dolphins are killed by fishermen to feed the inhabitants of the island. In Dominica, a specialist in whale watching has managed to tame a family of whales. By snorkeling with them, he hopes to raise awareness of their species, to better preserve it. Between fatalism and the good life, the West Indies is a jewel with many facets, a community in harmony with nature... but also seeking reconciliation with its past.


A strip of land battered by the sea. A territory of extremes that sinks into the English Channel. This is the Cotentin. This narrow Norman peninsula feels like the end of the world where nature is unpredictable. Cotentin’s men have no choice but to live with it. Guy, for instance, is a fisherman from the Hague who defies the strongest current in Europe: the Alderney Race, reaching up to twelve knots, or 22 km/h. Others, like Magali, Nathalie, Floriane and Marielle, set themselves the challenge of taming the capricious sea. Rowing, they will face the famous Passage de la Déroute, a seascape of shipwrecks. The Cotentin is also home to the highest tidal ranges in Europe. In Chausey, a continent emerges out of the water every six hours. The harsh elements have fashioned wild and spectacular landscapes: steep cliffs, small ports nestled between rocks and long deserted beaches. In the Cotentin, the sea is omnipresent. Everything from one’s daily life to the economic future of the region dances to its rhythm. Turbines will soon be installed underwater to produce electricity from the powerful currents, offering great prospects to this peninsula of extremes!


It's a cocoon in the shape of a triangle measuring some twenty kilometers. On this tiny patch of earth we find an astonishing variety of landscapes, activities and extraordinary characters. Widely known, of a beauty that sometimes seems unreal, the Bay of Arcachon still holds many secrets. We set out to meet some passionate people, way off the beaten tracks and a far cry from the stories that have already been told a thousand times.

The Pyla dune, scaled by thousands of visitors, is the icon of the bay, but beneath its sands archaeologists are discovering archaeological remains of major importance. Deep under water, divers take us to visit the sunken remains of the blockhouses of the third Reich, while aboard a microlight, a photographer tells us the story of the bay that he admires every day. From a bird's eye view the landscapes are stunning as we fly over practically virgin nature. Each of these people fights for the Bay in his own way, each one tells his story with fervor.


The Seine Estuary: a place that is paradoxical and full of surprising images. In the coastal countryside between Le Havre and Rouen, industry and commerce rub shoulders pretty well with nature and historical heritage. Here you can see rare birds in the shadows of factory chimneys or cows watching cargo ships sail by, barges and small trawlers passing giant liners, a container ship used as basis for a monumental work of art and even cattle that drink cider! And all in a light that inspired the Impressionists to create some of their most famous works.


Vanuatu. A tiny patch of earth lost in the middle of Oceania. This archipelago of 80 paradisiacal islands has long remained far apart from our world and has succeeded in preciously guarding its secrets. It’s a veritable Eden, living to the rhythm of its erupting volcanoes, its coral sands lapped by the waves and its inhabitants, fierce guardians of a tradition, “the custom”, that is steeped in magic, witchcraft and even cannibalism. However, fresh siren voices are calling. Those of tourism and modernity. At the capital, Port-Vila, cruise liners sail alongside traditional craft. Property developers have their greedy eyes on the sacred lands of the archipelago. And it’s only a short while since the children of Vanuatu have had to go to school. This is the story of a virgin land suddenly opening up to the world. How is this archipelago in the South Pacific managing its entry into the 21st century? Pascal, the French explorer, Marcel, a future clan chief, Sylvain, the volcanologist, Hilary, the Green mermaid battling global warming, Loïc, the property developer and Mark, the flying doctor… We follow these six key characters at the heart of the “big bang” Made in Vanuatu.


On April 18 2015, nearly 80 enthusiasts set out to sea from Rochefort aboard the Hermione bound for the United States of America. It’s a very special inaugural voyage because it has taken 20 years to build the exact replica of the frigate that carried Lafayette to America in 1780. In the heart of the action we follow these volunteers: sailors and enthusiasts ready to take up the challenge that reflects the splendid excess of their passion for the sea, heritage and history.


Often constructed on deadly reefs, built by courageous men in the face of raging seas and howling winds, lighthouses are both watchmen and landmarks for sailors all around the world. They also represent a heritage that is much appreciated by the French, who arrive every year in increasing numbers to climb the countless steps leading up to the lantern of salvation. This journey will take us from “Paradise”, lighthouses built on land, to “Hell”, lighthouses on the high seas, by way of “Purgatory”, lighthouses on islands.


The Basque Country is a land with personality; the power of the ocean is its identity. From Bayonne to Bilbao, when the wind blows and the ocean rages, waves can reach a gigantic size. Grégory, photographer of the extreme, has made it his playground. Xabi, a marine carpenter, set himself the insane challenge of reconstructing a 16th century whaling ship in which he planned to cross the Atlantic: the San Juan is the project of a lifetime, a pride shared with an entire people. Xabi, Greg, Alice, Béatrice and others are all the faithful heirs to a strong Basque maritime tradition and the bearers of fresh challenges and adventures. They are the new Basque power.


Data sheet

Poster of Mysterious islands

Directors : Herlé Jouon, Antoine Laura, Gil Kebaili, Laila Agorram, Héléna Modotti, Camille Robert, Jacques Plaisant, Philippe Lespinasse, François Guillaume, Jean-Thomas Ceccaldi, Stéphane Jacques, Claire Leisink

Producers : Antipode / Grand Angle Productions & Archipel production / Tournez S'il Vous Paît

Co-producers : France Télévisions

Duration : 11 episodes • 1x110' & 2x52' 

Format : HD