Director: Risteard O’Domhnaill
Running Time: 82 minutes
Release Date: April 29th
Driven by a sense of urgency to convey a message concerning the over-consumption of vital resources in the Atlantic Ocean, and an excess of ideas born from his previous documentary, The Pipe, which looked at the Shell gas line, Risteard O’Domhnaill has returned with Atlantic. An awe-inspiringly beautiful piece of critical longform journalism, his latest effort does not wallow in cynicism, but rather offers hope, even if only a glimmer. Taking as its subject matter the struggle of fishermen along the coasts of western Ireland, Norway and Newfoundland and Labrador, he hones in on two major issues facing these people: oil and fishing quotas.
Combining archival footage, with natural landscapes captured to remind viewers of the glory of the scenic areas surrounding the vast ocean, his objective is primarily to tell this story both through an intensively researched essay, narrated by Brendan Gleeson, and through contrasts, both spoken, and unspoken. Informed by a plethora of economic and political experts, and fishermen, O’Domhnaill has each explain to the viewer how dwindling oil resources, shrinking fish quotas, and the growing number of EU super-trawlers impinging upon Irish waters are impacting the traditional livelihood of small fishing towns.
Frustrated with the Irish governments move to give big business a greater monopoly on these resources, silencing the little man in the process, through laws and quotas, this hidden betrayal has created a dark modern history, and a worryingly opaque future. Within the past five years alone, O’Domhnaill has noted the Atlantic has become near unrecognisable, impacted by climate change, falling numbers of fish and the trades shift from boat to boardroom.
Hence, to convey a message of positivity, he contrasts the industry in Ireland, with its counter-parts over in Norway and Newfoundland. Arguing a point, that not all hope is lost just yet, these two nations, he notes, over the past few decades have seen co-operation between government and workers to create an industry, empowered and not mismanaged. In particular, his decision to delve into Newfoundland proves to be as fascinating as it is informative. There, rather than sidling up with multi-national corporations, the island’s government fought defiantly to insure that local fishermen were the prime benefactors of the trade, their wealth was not sapped dry by external businesses, whom would offer little of any value in return to local communities.
Poignant, but uplifting, Atlantic is an important study, worth considering in an Irish context. It serves a political point, as opposed merely being a nice stylised piece of non-fiction, and for its cogent message alone, this gives it a great deal of value and vitality. Perhaps more of an introductory work, for those unfamiliar of the situation inside Ireland, still, the international dimension is a fine oversight for those whose insight into this issue is strong on a national front, but weak on a wider scale.