New festival reels in stories of ocean and coastal communities

Tara Bradbury
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A still from the film “Cod: Renewing a Bountiful Catch,” to be screened next week during the inaugural Fishing for the Future Film Festival in St. John’s. — Submitted photo

A brand-new film festival will open in St. John’s next week, with a mascot of a cod wearing reel scales and filmic fins.

The first Fishing for the Future Film Festival will take place at Memorial University’s Innovation Hall Theatre in the Bruneau Centre for Research and Innovation, and will mark the 20th anniversary of the closure of the northern cod fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The festival stemmed from the work of Barbara Neiss, research professor and sociologist at MUN, who’s been studying fisheries issues for 35 years.

She’s also the principal investigator for the Community-University Research for Recovery Alliance. The festival is a sort of culmination of a five-year-long project done through the organization.

Filmmaker/actor Ruth Law-rence, former executive director of the Nickel Independent Film Festival, is Fishing for the Future’s co-ordinator.

“Barb felt that film would be the most powerful way to show what’s happening in the ocean, because it’s so hard for people to get a grasp of what’s going on down there unless it’s filmed. I thought that was a very smart idea on her part,” Lawrence explained.

From July 5-7, the festival will hold 23 screenings, including documentaries, short films, animations, dramas and feature films.

A call for submissions was made during the spring, and the festival received about a dozen responses. the rest of the films were chosen by a selection committee.

The films cover a wide range of fisheries-related topics.

“We start out the first night mostly dealing with the moratorium and we move on to deal with a lot of ocean issues. Some of it is conservation; some of it is acidification of the ocean — acidification that’s come about as a result of all the carbon dioxide in the air. It’s actually quite interesting how it’s changing the ocean ecology and is horrible at the same time,” said Lawrence.

There are films on aquaculture, and films about coastal communities, both in this province and abroad.

“Cry Sea,” from Senegal, tells a story not unlike our own.

“They’ve experienced similar things because they’re being overfished by these big industrial machines, basically,” Lawrence explained.

Once the festival is officially opened by Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie, opening night will begin with “A Harbour Symphony,” a film directed by Barbara Doran.

Other films to be screened that night are “The White Ship,” following the Portuguese fleet that fished the Grand Banks, “The Children of Fogo,” “Crossing Time Approximately,” and Nigel Markham’s “Taking Stock,” tracing the history leading up to the moratorium.

On the morning of July 7, there’ll be a special children’s matinee with short selections for children.

A basics of filmmaking workshop with Derek Norman will happen later that day, while a panel discussion on collaborative preservation and mobilization of cultural heritage called “Doing More Together” will feature Dale Jarvis, Anne Troake, Charles Menzies, Chris Brookes and Pam Hall, moderated by Paul Kennedy.

Brookes will curate an online gallery of radio and video work during the festival, while selected pieces by Hall will be on display.

The festival will be repeated in Norris Point in September, and Lawrence said the goal is to make it an annual or biannual event.

Advance tickets for screenings are $12 ($15 at the door) and can be bought online at or by calling 753-4531. A festival pass costs $50. A full festival schedule and information on the films is available online at

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Organizations: Innovation Hall Theatre, Bruneau Centre for Research, University Research Recovery Alliance

Geographic location: Senegal, Norris Point

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