Review by Sean Boelman
While one would hope that caring for the planet we call our home would not be a political issue, it is too often seen as such, particularly in countries where the right to freedom of speech is not as guaranteed. The new documentary Current Sea follows two activists who use their voices to support those whose perspectives have been silenced in other areas of the world.
The film follows an investigative journalist and an environmental activist as they team up to confront illegal fishing vessels that have not only caused a problem with overfishing but also resulted in widespread destruction of the ecosystem. It’s a complicated issue, and the subjects of the film do a great job of acknowledging that, but there are some clear solutions that need to be instituted.
On one hand, the film is about having a respect for the natural world and finding the right balance between resource usage and conservation. Of course, fishing is a necessary evil — people do have to eat after all — but by shining a light on unsustainable fishing practices, these activists hope to create a world where these resources are available for generations to come.
That said, there is a strong focus in the film on the political aspect of the issue. It’s heartbreaking to see that people who want to make the world a better place are repressed because their beliefs do not align with those of the government (and the government’s vested interests). Even more agitating are those scenes in which the illegal fishermen discuss their justification, which is rather eye-opening.
Because of the threat of danger (and sometimes even death) that faces the film’s subjects, the narrative never fails to entertain. In fact, it almost plays out like a thriller. However, in trying to juggle the many faces of this issue, the narrative feels a bit overstuffed, if only because it is a much bigger story than it initially seems.
Director Christopher Smith shoots the film in a way that is undeniably cinematic and kinetic, even if it doesn’t do much creatively. Much of the story is told through fly-on-the-wall footage and infographics, with interviews used at a minimum to keep things interesting, all accompanied by the obligatory flashy score.
Smith does make one fatal mistake with his film, though, and that is not featuring the voices that are silenced and could have used this very public forum. Granted, some of these activists would have been putting their lives in more danger had they appeared in a bigger role in the film, but the choice of subjects creates an almost white-savior-like narrative.
Current Sea is a fascinating documentary about an issue that audiences from around the world may not realize is so prevalent. Christopher Smith is able to deliver his message in a way that is both compelling and thought-provoking, making this an essential watch.
Current Sea screens at the Enzian Theater as part of the Florida Film Festival on August 19 at 6:30pm. It is also available virtually (geoblocked to Florida) for the entirety of the festival, which runs August 7-20 in Orlando, FL.