Despite the internet giving companies the potential to keep all movies easily available, an unfortunate recent trend has seen companies shelve projects for corporate gain. The growing "folk film" space would seemingly be immune from losing projects, but one of the internet's leading independent filmmakers surprised fans by removing one of his most popular works. Back on Aug. 8, filmmaker Joel Haver, who has 1.67 million YouTube subscribers, pulled one of his full-length movies, 2019's Island, from circulation. Island is no longer available on YouTube or other platforms, meaning there is no legal way to watch the production.
Island is an interesting effort from Haver; the movie's first half was filmed entirely alone on a small, homemade set, dramatizing a man — played by Haver — who is stranded on an island. In the project's second half, the man escapes the island and wanders around Florida, meeting various strangers while opening himself back up to the normal world, culminating in a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, where the man calls up a loved one to express how much he misses her. This second half was filmed using a mix of candid camera footage and actors. It's one of his most acclaimed works, it currently has a 3.8 (out of 5) rating on Letterboxd and a 7.6 (out of 10) on IMDb.
As for why Haver, who is also behind the movies Pretend That You Love Me and Drowning in Potential, would pull Island off the internet, he did not get too specific. He simply states that the content of the movie has upset "some people very dear" to him.
"It's a bit of a melancholy day. I've been having a hard couple days, but it's come around to the time that I say goodbye to a movie of mine — at least in the public sphere, it won't be available to watch anywhere — and that's the movie Island," Haver said in a video posted to his second YouTube channel. "It was a movie about a lot of things, but primarily about isolation and hurt, and the ways to get better and the ways we think to get better and how we use people and how your healing is as insular as it is external. But it's ultimately a movie that has caused a lot of ache and hurt in my personal life, and it has hurt some people very dear to me."
He later adds, "The movie will always be near and dear to me. It's a really really special movie. I think it allowed me to get closer to a lot of people in my life. It allowed me to stop shutting myself away, it allowed me to come to terms with a lot of things going on inside me, but ultimately, it just has caused too much pain beyond the movie itself that I don't think it needs to be public anymore."
While Haver did not reveal what scene or scenes his loved ones took issue with, he did clarify that the sex scene in Island was not the issue. While the scene in question is presented in a hidden camera style, it was actually a staged moment with an actress named Shannon Bailey. He then goes on to note that, while he used to lean on interactions with real people, much like Borat and Nathan for You, he has tried to move past that style of filmmaking. He's now much more conscious of "the manipulation of reality and of people" and the power art has on others — not just the creator themselves.
"I think an artist has a lot of responsibility both to themselves and to those that come into contact with their art, and I think that art has a lot of power, and those powers can be as negative as they are positive and as important to you as they are hurtful to someone else," Haver said. He best summed up his decision to pull the project by later stating, "The negative is starting to overpower the positive in such an extreme way that I need to just make it private."
While Island is no longer available, its two trailers are still live. You can also watch Haver discuss the movie on a January episode of Attack of the Show: The Loop and in a 2020 video with 922 Films' YouTube channel. Haver still hosts his other feature films on YouTube, in addition to his numerous short films, comedy sketches and vlogs. He also has a film discussion channel titled Joel Talks About Movies.