Docurama // 2009 // 83 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Marco Duran (Retired) // February 25th, 2010
Where have all the fish gone?
Documentaries walk a fine line. They are often made by people who feel very strongly about the topic at hand. Therefore, they often are too heavy-handed or uneven; they beat you over the head with the message they want to deliver. It takes a great, or at least a well-seasoned, documentarian to be able to stand back far enough to examine and present all sides of issue and still make a good case for their cause. On the other hand, some filmmakers know so much about their subject they talk over the heads of people; they don't realize that they can tone down the information without talking down to their audience. The End of the Line, directed by Rupert Murray, walks that line beautifully and has me now rethinking the fish I eat and where it comes from. Inspired by the book The End of the Line: How Over Fishing is Changing the World and What We Eat by Charles Clover, the author is featured in the film as a reporter; in one sequence he is shown trying to get to the bottom of why certain restaurants and stores were selling endangered species of fish. "If a restaurant," Charles explained, "served cheetah, rhinoceros, or some other endangered creature on their menu then people would be in an uproar. Blue fin tuna and Marlin are endangered, yet they are being served in restaurants across the country."
The fish of the world are being caught at such a rate that many are at the point of extinction. The analogy is made in The End of the Line that if the ocean was a field of wheat, it would have been plowed seven times a year. Our fishing technology is so advanced, our boats so plentiful and their nets so huge that no fish, or for that matter any marine life, have the chance to escape. That being the case, fish all over the globe have become less abundant and do not grow to the sizes that they used to. This of course has led the ecosystem, both in oceans and on land, to deteriorate. The butterfly effect of just one species of fish becoming extinct, in turn leading to other fish who rely on the first species then becoming extinct, and so on, is well described inThe End of the Line and becomes quickly and horrifyingly evident. The End of the Line makes a good companion piece to the another recent documentary, The Cove. Neither are for the faint of heart, though, as both contain very graphic scenes of severe brutality to fish and other marine life.
It would have been very easy to make fishermen the bad guys; especially when you see them gutting and goring fish, throwing the dead ones that are too small back overboard. However, instead we get to see how the lives and livelihood of fishermen throughout the world have deteriorated as much as the population of the fish they catch. What if they were forced to stop fishing so that the marine life would have a chance to regenerate? Again, the butterfly effect is shown, but this time in the opposite direction. Many of the fishermen would not have anything else to fall back on; they would not be able to feed their families or keep their homes, and so the economic atrophy would spread. Really there are no definitive fingers being pointed in the movie. However a very big company is shown to be collecting and freezing large amounts of blue fin tuna, while at the same time continuing to fish the blue fin tuna even more than limits allow. The implication is that if the tuna are extinct and they have the only reserve of it in the world, they get to choose the selling price for blue fin tuna. It's a chilling display of power and greed and, in this way, big business becomes the faceless, nameless bad guy bringing all the corruption down upon us.
The End of the Line is filled with some of the best music I've heard in a documentary. Presented in 1.85 anamorphic widescreen, the production value is displayed in every frame, from the graphics they used to demonstrate their facts to the movie being thoughtfully narrated by Ted Danson. What's more, its beautiful shots are edited in stylish and dramatic ways. Extras include more than 50 minutes of webisodes that take you beahind the scenes and deeper into the issues; an interview with Ted Danson; a 13 min short film entitled The Coral Triangle: Nursery of the Seas, a pocket guide to seafood, trailer, and a filmmaker bio.
The film postulates that if fishing continues at the current pace, by 2040 we will see a depletion of all the fish in the world. So what is to be done? Rupert Murray leaves us on a positive note -- things are changing in order to repopulate the waters and make sure our children and grandchildren are not left with empty oceans.
I was thoroughly engrossed, even though the film covers a topic I did not
care about before. That is the mark of a good documentary. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Short Film
* Seafood Guide