Monday, 31 January 2022

Movie review: Seaspiracy, dir Ali Tabrizi (2021)

An ambitious Millennial goes on the search of Truth. At least, as it relates to the sea. 

That’s a lot of ground to cover in 100 minutes, and the result is relatively breathless, fraught with a sense of the filmmaker’s own drama. 

It’s actually about five separate movies in one. Or else it could’ve been done as a series. Yet a film like this, for all its faults, is clearly necessary. Opponents would call it virtue signalling. Not me, it’s just a shame that it’s such a raw and undercooked production. 

The lesson with regards to commercial fishing is important and needs to be spoken. Having written a number of stories about fishing myself I knew a lot of the details the film retails in but still I learned new things, though I wonder at all of the graphs Tabrizi uses to illustrate the extent of the damage humanity’s made to the oceans’ fishing stocks. Where do they get the numbers from? 

Tabrizi doesn’t explain. For most people the lack of such clarifying information might pass unnoticed but I’ve written stories for magazines that have the same sense of discovery as Tabrizi’s film contains, so I know where he’s coming from. Like world population figures, Tabrizi’s fish stock numbers have to be taken as a given, as though God himself had written them down on tablets of stone. 

I would’ve liked more information but the lack of this crucial data is all of a piece with the film’s amateurish approach to its subject. A more mature editor might’ve underscored the importance of transparency. As it is, Tabrizi’s film seems destined for oblivion, yet the film is edited efficiently and the viewer’s interest never flags, Tabrizi covering a lot of ground in a short time. But, like his tendency to credit those whose ideas consone with his own, this is a weakness. He starts out looking at plastic in the oceans then skips to dolphins and their killing, and before long he’s concentrating his efforts of trawlers. If you stop and think you can see the downside in this magpie-like strategy. Jumping like a rock skipped across the surface of a calm body of water Tabrizi allows his youthful charm – look at this, do you see what I see?! – to beguile the watcher, but a more educated or discerning mind must pause and ask questions. 

The matter of numbers is one but there are others, too, not least the fleets of such developing economies as China. Tabrizi doesn’t talk enough about the mechanisms used to police compliance with regulations relating to the oceans. He stops short in covering the issue of slavery. He misses out on a lot of “angles”. He could spend his whole life making movies about how we treat the sea and still not tell the whole story. This film could’ve easily been made into a whole series of shorter episodes and I hope Tabrizi one day goes further.

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