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PIrate for the Sea (15)

Director - Ronald Colby

Cinema 2 – Barbican Centre






ry Couzens

A review by Owain Paciuzsko for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Winner of the best documentary feature award at the Boulder International Film Festival, one hopes this is the start of many accolades for this charming, provocative and exciting documentary.

Focusing on the life and exploits of Paul Watson, we are introduced to him through a pacily edited opening sequence that shows Paul as the youngest member of the first days of Greenpeace - even present for the coining of the name - but eventually deciding that the organisation's non-violent protests against whalers had little to no effect.  Watson branched out, on his own and formed the group Sea Shepherds in 1977.

The Sea Shepherds became known for their controversial tactics in their efforts to halt unlawful fishing.  Most publicized by the media was Watson's scuttling of two ships docked in an Icelandic harbour.  It is here in the film where we join Watson and his crew and follow him - via a well edited combination of news and stock footage, alongside multiple cameras from within Watson's ship the Farley Mowat.  Watson and crew intelligently make sure they keep cameras rolling at all times to illustrate that their actions were those of an oceanic police force rather than an antagonistic eco-terrorism group, and thusly the film effectively captures the quick-thinking, nerve-wracking and sometimes very funny moments onboard.  This also means that we get to see footage of the Sea Shepherd's evidence and the footage is powerful and brutal; images of seal clubbing, finning sharks and whaling cannot fail to have a strong impact.

Though the film focuses on Watson's action and ideology, there are glimpses of how other organisations see him, primarily Greenpeace and - through Watson's interactions - we get an idea of how governments feel.  But this film is heavily routed in the world of the Sea Shepherds and asks for very little debate on their actions.  Whilst it is undeniably satisfying - from my point of view - to see someone as passionate and warm-hearted as Watson getting a degree of vengeance, it would be interesting to see more discussion on these matters.  However, as a meeting led by activist and Sea Shepherd supporter (and Hollywood actor) Martin Sheen with the Canandian government proves, many public officials aren't willing to discuss things like illegal fishing on camera.

Watson's strong personality and beliefs, alongside the drama inherent in his pursuit of his 'policing' makes for a consistently thrilling and thought-provoking documentary.  The screening I attended was largely populated by former/present members of Watson's Sea Shepherds, but hopefully it's a film that will find a larger audience, including those - like myself - who were previously unaware of Watson's extraordinary life and career.





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