Docufilm stars local fishermen, chefs

·4 min read

Sep. 30—A special showing of the new documentary "Fish & Men," filmed in part in Gloucester, will take place this weekend.

The film recently won its 11th award at the Berkshire International Film Festival, as it seeks to tell another kind of tale about the fishing industry and the seafood most Americans consume.

In May, it competed against 93 films from 21 countries and won the 2021 Global Audience Choice Award at the 18th annual International Ocean Film Festival in San Francisco.

Gloucester Cinema, 74 Essex Ave., will present special screenings of "Fish & Men" this Saturday, Oct. 2, and Sunday, Oct. 3, both at 10 a.m.

Darby Duffin, a director and producer, joined forces with college buddy Adam Jones to create this film, more than six years in the making.

"They created a thought-provoking, award-winning documentary that will be near and dear to the hearts of those connected to Gloucester and the fishing industry as well as those concerned about the quality of the food we eat," said John Williams of Gloucester Cinema.

The synopsis notes that the film seeks to expose the high cost of cheap fish and the forces threatening local fishing communities and public health by revealing how consumer demand drives the global seafood economy.

Duffin noted that this is not an advocacy film but one that delves into the competing interests of fisheries management in the United States. It also looks at the primary foreign competition based in other countries, where seafood is often unregulated and lacks transparency or traceability. The filmmakers want American consumers to look more closely at the sources of their seafood, and they may be surprised at what they learn.

When Duffin began his information gathering for the film, sources kept directing him toward the nation's oldest seaport.

"When I was doing my research, everything pointed to Gloucester, which was at the center of one part of the story about the dramatic decline in the current state of the fisheries, and it is this iconic port," he said.

The film opens with a narrative from Gloucester's Russell Sherman, and his near-death experience at sea at the age of 29 in the 1970s.

"Then we pull the curtain back on the global seafood trade and how it operates, and the sources of a lot of our seafood," said Duffin. "We give the viewer a hard look at what it is that they are eating."

Duffin said, for himself, the two numbers that pop off the screen are the nearly 90% of seafood sold in the U.S. is imported, and of that only 1 to 2% of that fish is inspected, and half of the fish that is inspected is discarded because it doesn't meet the U.S. standards.

The filmmakers also wanted to be hopeful, showing how chefs can serve as the change agents and influence the public to expand the variety of fish they eat instead relying on usual five species — shrimp. salmon, canned tuna, tilapia and Alaskan pollack.

To that end, the filmmakers interviewed some of the world's most celebrated chefs, including Eric Ripert, Dan Barber, Niki Nakayama and Michael Cimarusti. The cast also includes Angela Sanfilippo of Gloucester, Sean Barrett, Richard Burgess, Paul Greenberg, and Barton Seaver.

"My hope is that the film will spark a long overdue dialogue about the risks of importing 90 percent of our seafood from largely unregulated foreign sources. If our film can inspire viewers to begin asking where their seafood comes from, seek out local seasonal fish and consider trying new species — then I will consider the long journey — to make this movie — a success," said Darby.

In an interview with "The Knockturnal," Adam Jones wrote: "Eat more seafood. Eat American seafood. Eat wild-caught seafood if you can. Ask where your fish comes from. Know your fisherman. Also, American small boat fishermen do not want to decimate the fish stocks, they don't overfish. They follow rules set by NOAA and the U.S. is the most highly regulated fishery in the world. ... Imported fish is where things become questionable because of lax regulations, and the use of toxic additives to fish as they are shipped all around the world to and from China with tens of thousands of food miles on them and potential risks to public health. Buy local. Eat something unfamiliar."

Gloucester Cinema is following COVID-19 safety protocols. Tickets for this limited run can be purchased in advance on gloucestercinema.com or at the theater during business hours.

Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-675-2706, or at gmccarthy@gloucestertimes.com.

Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-675-2706, or at gmccarthy@gloucestertimes.com.

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