Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Short film focuses on cod in Atlantic Canada

Short film focuses on cod in Atlantic Canada
By Neil Armstrong

One of the four films featured by the National Film Board of Canada at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2016 focused on cod, an important ingredient of Jamaica’s national dish, ackee and saltfish.

The short film, “HAND.LINE.COD.,” directed by Justin Simms is set in the coldest waters surrounding Newfoundland’s rugged, breathtaking Fogo Island.

It follows a group of “people of the fish”—traditional fishers who catch northern cod live by hand, by hook and line, one at a time.

Their passion and livelihoods are intimately connected to the water.

Their secret mission is to drive up the price of fish, the exact opposite of what’s been going on for the last 50 years, since the introduction of industrial fishing practices.

After a 20-year moratorium on North Atlantic cod, the stocks are returning.

Now, using proven techniques from centuries past, these fishers are leading a new revolution in sustainability, taking their premium product directly to the commercial market for the first time.

Hand-lined cod fillets are making their debut in Toronto’s finest restaurants, where the city’s top chefs clamour for premium fish.

Simms takes viewers deep inside the world of the brave fishers returning to past methods that hold tremendous potential for the future.

“What I really love about what the people in Fogo have done and this initiative is  they’ve started to look at catching cod by hook and line in a professional way again. And kind of trying to create a system by which that can actually make money so that we don’t have to trawl and we don’t have the kind of overfish,” says Simms who noted that the practice was initially for recreational purposes.  

In the film, viewers vicariously travel with the fishers from the early morning hours, spend time on the ocean, and witness the intricacies of a 500-year-old tradition that’s making a comeback.

“Even though the fishers of Fogo, even though it’s a small effort that they’re making, in terms of there’s only 30 or 40 of them right now catching fish this way, one certainly hopes that enough people can see it and maybe be inspired to try and adopt it for themselves, and slowly but surely we can kind of stop raping the oceans,” said Simms.

Retired journalist, Keeble McFarlane, in an article “When Ackee Meets Codfish” in the Jamaica 50th anniversary coffee table book, “Jamaicans in Canada: When Ackee Meets Codfish,” references the exports from that region of cod in the 1770s to the British Caribbean colonies.

“All around the island of Newfoundland and to a lesser extent, the mainland territories of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, fishermen braved the dark, stormy, frigid waters of the North Atlantic teeming with cod which were easy to catch and which in those days often were as big and heavy as the men who hauled them in.”

On September 14, Claude Joli-Coeur, the Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson of the National Film Board of Canada, held a reception at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto where he introduced the directors and production teams of the four films screening at the festival.
The other films are: “We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice” directed by Alanis Obomsawin, Theodore Ushev’s “Blind Vaysha” and “Window Horses” directed by Ann Marie Fleming.

Cod from Fogo Island off the coast of Newfoundland

Justin Simms, filmmaker of HAD.LINE.COD, a National Film Board of Canada film which premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.

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