By Ed Sum
Victoria Film Festival
No sushi lover can go without seeing this documentary about the global phenomenon of dining on raw fish Japanese style. It expanded to at dozens of countries ever since its introduction onto Western Culture last century. Not only will this movie sate many taste buds with its colourful and informative introduction to a relatively simple cuisine, but also it is very revealing about the affect it is having on a global scale. The title is very telling, and it baits some people to wonder what is this film all about.
Because nearly everyone is buying in to a healthier living, there has to be a cost somewhere in the delivery of the final goods to the consumer. Overfishing can kill the stocks faster than they can naturally replenish. That point is often strategically mentioned, but is it enough to get viewers to change their habits? Producer/Director Mark Hall provides plenty of arguments for and against, making for a very balanced view weighing in the pros and cons of fish farms versus wild, of small scale versus large-scale fishing, and Mother Nature versus man.
The interviews come from chefs, fishmongers, rights activists and also scientists. They all show a passion in what they believe and this exploration is heavily focused on the fate of the blue-fin tuna, allegedly being fished to extinction. They are an apex predator in this particular food chain, and if they are gone, that will affect other species that depend or are hunted by them. This attention to detail is wonderful, and audiences will get a marine ecology lesson at the same time.
Back on land, this film is revealing in how some eating establishments, like Tataki Restaurant in San Francisco, are selling sustainable products; they will only serve locally caught fish over imported. Even in Victoria, B.C., there are a handful of restaurants, like Red Fish Blue Fish, which supports this idealism.
Tsukiji is the largest market that exports products to dining establishments all over the world. A significant part of the film looks at the process, from the point of grading the fish to showing how these wheel cart sized tunas, if not larger, are sold. Certain areas are off limits to tourists, and this segment is worth its weight in gold for consumers to learn about what goes on within. That also includes how refrigeration technology has improved over the past forty years.
Even though this movie sometimes diverges, it always returns to explore how globalization has affected one staple of Japanese cuisine. Its affect is a detail that anthropologists looking at today’s culture may want to study. Its effects are scary. That includes a hopeful few who think playing God is a must in order to bring back a species. The final segment about raising the blue-fin in controlled situations is very intriquing, and it brings forth allusions to other areas of agriculture where fruits and vegetables are genetically modified.
This film delivers a powerful message that will only serve to feed viewers with more knowledge before they go eating at a Japanese restaurant. What diners will do from now on depends on what they gained from this film.
For more information about sustainable dining options and where else this documentary will screen, please go to Sushi, The Global Catch’s official website.