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Dir: Ali Tabrizi, Running Time: 1 Hour 29 Minutes, Availability: Netflix
Theres an inherent irony in the way Seaspiracy is put together. On the one hand, its an incredibly informative, harrowing and shocking documentary that, with the short amount of time its been available on Netflix, has immediately found its audience. On the other hand, it feels just as plastic as the rubbish in the ocean it talks about. Its an odd beast, but a 100% necessary watch, warning us of an industry occuring in the dark thats slowly destroying our oceans.
Seaspiracy starts out on the right foot. We begin learning about director Ali Tabrizi, how he loves the ocean and how he wants to stop plastic pollution. It eases us into the facts of pollution, why it is such a massive threat, and what we can do about it. Tabrizi is personable and admits his own guilt in the situation – avoiding doing what many other documentaries do by making you feel overly guilty or making the entire thing feel like a telling off. Added to this, theres a certain YouTube-esque quality to the entire thing, which is far from a negative. Once again, this brings you in, makes you like Tabrizi and makes the entire thing feel like youre being guided by a friend.
Soon, however, the documentary takes a shocking turn. Ill leave the harrowing revelations about the fishing industry out of the review – theyre for you to discover yourself and I genuinely recommend you do. But where the film picks up, it also begins to lose itself. Supposedly live dialogue sounds utterly scripted, shots that are supposedly shot in secret look like theyre straight off a soundstage and spy movie sound effects buzz and whir, bringing you completely away from the film and its message. Soon it seems a little more like Tabrizi wants to feel like an undercover spy rather than a messenger of the sea. But, the problem is, he clearly isnt that person. Hes not the type to desperately chase the hidden camera, secret agent suave nature of many undercover docs. He wants to tell the truth about the industry. His own documentary somehow manages to get in its own way.
Whats the problem with the production feeling fake? Well, it undermines his own message. It undermines the truth in the story. It makes the messages bounce off you like it does when you hear the term Nuclear warhead in Mission: Impossible. Whats even worse, though, is that the message, when you take the time to ponder it, is utterly horrifying. Its sickening, vile and heart-wrenching. Tabrizi almost puts his own foot in his documentary.
Luckily things straighten back out after a little while and become much more standard for a doc but also much more focused on its message. We start to feel like were actually on a journey with Tabrizi, witnessing the harsh reality of the fishing trade, mixed in with fantastic setpieces. A moment mid-way through including raiding illegal fishing vessels is especially powerful, leading to jaw-dropping filmmaking that shows immense passion and talent. Its well worth your time, but it stumbles here and there on its way.
It’s important to drop in here at the end and say that the documentary has been accused of misrepresentation by it’s participants. I don’t know if it is representative of the truth or not – it’s up to you to watch it and decide for yourself.
Written by: Joey Palmer
today16th November 2023 1