Documentary Films


a film by Markus CM Schmidt

a LICHTBLICK FILM production
in co-production with WDR
in collaboration with Film- and Medienboard NRW

worldsales: Autlook Filmsales

85 Minutes and 52 Minutes / Color / HD, DCP

European bluefin tuna can grow to the size of a passenger car – up to 5m long and weighing up to 600 kg. Once a year, schools of them migrate from the Atlantic to spawning grounds in the Mediterranean. It is a well-established fact that tuna stocks now face imminent collapse. Yet they are still being fished during spawning season, interrupting the natural cycle of replenishment. The fishermen, too, are now facing extinction: They can only service the loan debt on their boats by continuing to fish – as long as they possibly can.

French fishing trawlers are the most modern In Europe; almost the entire fleet docks at the harbor town of Sète, in the south of France. The owner families are mostly of Italian ancestry, one reason why they mainly keep to themselves. Ancient family alliances – and feuds – have remained intact across the ages. While some have used questionable means to secure fishing licenses for still plentiful Libyan waters, the rest are left to trawl the already heavily overfished areas. The Mediterranean fishermen’s desperate fight for survival is coming to a head. Who will weather the storm?
ROGER DEL PONTE is one of the few owners in this hotly contested race trying to play by the rules – he fishes in EU waters only. Simple arithmetic reveals that fishing even the maximum quota won’t earn Del Ponte enough to make the loan payments on his trawler. Father and son crisscross the Mediterranean Sea on the doomed search for the last domestic tuna schools. Son DAVID was set to take over the family business, but when at season’s end they are forced to sell the boat after all.

RAPHAËL SCANAPIECCO sees himself more as a businessman than a fisherman: It’s completely legal, after all, to buy up ships and operate them under a Libyan flag, even when the former owners received EU compensation payment to decommission them. He feels justified in putting immediate responsibility to employees and family first. After Libya’s marine resources have been drained, his fleet heads for West Africa.

ROBERTO MIELGO turned his back on the fishing industry several years ago and has since become one of the harshest critics of its suicidal business practices. Mielgo’s research takes him to the hot spots of the “tuna wars”, where he has good reason to fear for his own health and safety. He gathers evidence of the extreme overfishing to strengthen his case for an EU moratorium to save the Mediterranean tuna from extinction.

But up till now, the fishing industry has managed to circumvent every restriction. There are billions at stake, after all. The great bluefin tops the global fish bestseller lists. Japanese refrigerated warehouses – at Mitsubishi, for example – are still packed with double the catch quota for an entre year. But the fishing nets are pulling in ever fewer and increasingly smaller tuna. The industry has begun to transfer the immature catch to fish farms, where it is fattened up for the kill at maturity. It is only a matter of time until stocks collapse completely. Mitsubishi will then move on to other business opportunities.

In the intensely expressive images captured by DOP Axel Schneppat, director Markus Schmidt uses his three protagonists to relate a parable of hope, disillusionment and desperation. In minute detail he exposes the mechanisms of a value chain in the process of destroying its own basis with a strategy based on shortsighted greed. Both the fish and the people are the ultimate losers.

written and directed by: Markus CM Schmidt
producer: Carl-Ludwig Rettinger
commissioning editors: WDR - Jutta Krug
DoP: Axel Schneppat
diving cam: Susanna Salonen
Sebastian Winkels und Markus CM Schmidt
Niko Schabel
Raimund von Schreibner

FIPA 2013

Festival International de Films "Pêcheurs du Monde", France
Green Film Festival, Great Britain
Ad Hoc: Inconvenient (human rights), Lithuania
Barents Ecology Film Festival, Russia
bergen IFF, Norway
Cinema Alfieri in Firenze, Italy 
Cinema Planeta International Environmental Film Festival in Cuernavaca, Mexico
cinemambiente envrionmental FF, Italy
CPH:DOX Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, Denmark
Devour! The Food Film Fest, Canada 
Docu.emme, Italy 
Dunkerque World Sea Film Festival, France
EcoCinema, Israel 
FIPA- festival international de programmes audiovisuels, France
International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala, India
planet doc review, Poland
Planet in Focus Toronto, Canada
Planet it's up to you, France
Tutti nello stesso piatto International Food, Film & Videodiversity Festival, Italy