BY SIOBHAN CRONIN
A FILM which charts the decline of Irish coastal fishing communities received a warm welcome when it was shown in a number of similar villages in West Cork last week.
Atlantic – the movie by Irish director Richie O’Donnell – is narrated by actor Brendan Gleeson, and reflects the plight of small fishermen along our shores, struggling to compete against the world’s supertrawlers.
The movie has been on a whistle-stop tour of the region this week, with viewings in Kinsale, Union Hall, Castletownbere, Caherciveen and Dingle, with another viewing planned for the White Horse in Ballincollig on April 28th.
The movie is being shown on the Cinemobile – the mobile cinema that brings film to small communities around the country.
O’Donnell was prompted to make the film after hearing the stories of Irish and Norwegian fishermen as he was working on his last movie The Pipe, which told the story of the battle between resource giant Shell and the local people of Rossport, Co Mayo.
Richie was determined to bring the film to the areas it most concerned – to be seen by those fishermen whose lives it represents.
‘There is nothing there that we don’t already know,’ commented one fisherman after the Union Hall screening, during a Q&A session with the director.
But others who weren’t as familiar with the fishing industry commented that they were not actually aware of the extent of the problems for Irish fishermen.
The first question asked by the audience was if any politicians had seen it – the film makes reference to the raw deal the Irish were sold when we joined the European Community – leaving us now with the ability to fish just 4pc of our territorial waters.
‘We did invite Simon Coveney (Marine Minister) to a screening, but he didn’t show up,’ said Richie. ‘But I see very little will from our politicians to change things. And I see a lack of confidence from them too. There’s not many votes in it either.’
Another audience member told Richie he should be ‘very proud’ of his movie and wondered if RTÉ were going to show it. ‘As an independent film maker, it is very difficult to get a big broadcaster behind you,’ he said.
‘The powers that be probably see you as a trouble maker,’ the lady told him. ‘I’ll take that as a compliment,’ joked the director.
She added that if the UK leave the EU, then it will be interesting to see how they will approach their own fisheries policy. That might leave the way open for us to renegotiate, she said.
Another fisherman, who said he was annoyed with the ruling that banned wild salmon fishing here, added that salmon fishing had kept many families on Cape Clear and Bere Island going for many years, before the ban.
‘Yes, as with farming, we always seem to look towards the bigger and more efficient ways of doing things, without looking at the consequences or asking if that is the right move in the long-term,’ agreed Richie.
‘For me, doing this was an eye-opener,’ he said. ‘I think about 90% of people don’t know what’s really going on.’