A Feature Documentary
The race is on to preserve Plum Island. Only 110 miles from New York and about the size of Central Park, the island harbors a breathtaking natural beauty and an astonishing amount of American history. The federal government currently owns and occupies the island, but will soon depart, leaving its future uncertain.
This full-length documentary will tell the story of Plum Island and the people who have set out to protect it. The intense interest in this island reaches far beyond local importance. It is a microcosmic version of the American story and touches on some of the most pressing issues of our time.
Located at the east end of Long Island Sound, Plum Island forms a small archipelago, together with Gardiners, Great Gull, and Fishers Island. Once the land of the Montaukett tribe, in its history it was home to a military fort shielding the Eastern Seaboard with what then were America’s largest cannons. Since 1954, it has housed the Plum Island Animal Disease Center where scientists protect American livestock by developing vaccines for highly contagious animal diseases. For decades, the internationally renowned high-tech bio lab was one of the largest employers on the North Fork of Long Island. Handling viruses made the island off-limits to the public. The result: Many kinds of wildlife, including endangered species, have found a refuge on the mostly untouched island.
Change suddenly arrived in 2008: Without public debate, Congress decided to move the laboratory to Manhattan, Kansas, mandating that Plum Island was to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. That did not sit well with locals who feared that the island will be turned into a secluded luxury resort. They started rallying for the preservation of the island and formed a growing coalition that includes more than 120 organizations today. Under pressure, Congress rescinded its decision to sell the island in December 2020. As much as this decision is hailed, it doesn’t provide answers about the future of the island. Instead, it raises more questions that will take center stage in this film.
What connects us to the place where we live? How do we want to define our relationship to nature and to our country’s history? What does land ownership entail, and what do people mean when they talk of preservation? And how do islanders deal with climate change? While humans wrestle with a dizzying host of concerns onshore, the island itself remains serene, implacable, untouched.
Follow our the production of the film and find out the latest happening on Plum Island in our production blog.
Make a tax-deductible donation through our fiscal sponsor, the Gotham Film & Media Institute. Every donation will help to get the film made. Thank you.