Seaspiracy ★★½

Along with The Social Network, Seaspiracy is another example of frustrating documentary filmmaking that claims to present these issues as novel, when in reality these issues have been explored and presented skillfully by activists in film over the past decade. Louie Psihoyos' The Cove (2009) investigates the unethical capture and slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan, Shannon Service and Jeffrey Waldron's Ghost Fleet (2018) brings attention to the fishing slave trade in Indonesia, following the efforts of a Thai abolitionist. There is even a documentary, The Islands and the Whales that chronicles the challenges that modern fishing practices pose to sustainable whaling in the Faroe Islands. Tabrizi's filmmaking is self-absorbed, superficial, and intellectually dishonest at best, which is a shame, because the issues covered in the film are far-reaching and monumental in scale.

Tabrizi composes a compelling narrative and thesis: that modern industrial fishing practices are unsustainable. These practices have resulted in mass pollution and destruction of marine life, have exploited slave labor, and often involve questionable labeling of seafoods as "sustainably sourced." You don't have to look far by doing a few Google searches to discover this information, and apparently Tabrizi has done a few searches on his own, as we are shown him perusing wikipedia articles and popular media outlets for information. A superficial handling of these issues results in a very underwhelming call to action - just eat less fish. Even Tabrizi admits that the issue runs deeper than individual consumption, as the governments and taxpayers (i.e. us) that are supporting and subsidizing these practices are driven by capitalism. Tabrizi attempts to show some of the direct action being taken against illegal fishing activities through the work of Sea Shepherd, a Hollywood-funded vigilante group that targets and sabotages illegal fishing operations, and while they are portrayed as heroic, their controversial actions have attracted criticism from environmental groups. In his book Whaling in Japan, Japanese author Jun Morikawa argues that Sea Shepherd's tactics have actually increased feelings of victimization of Japanese people, and have led to an increased resolve by the Japanese population to support whaling programs.

Overall, Seaspiracy takes several complex issues, guts them like the fish featured in the film, and leaves us wanting more. If Seaspiracy succeeds at anything, it will hopefully urge a new generation of people to care about an issue that is increasingly threatening our oceans year by year, and to advocate for more sustainable fishing practices.

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