Catch-22

It is difficult to imagine never having my favourite food again. I could happily gorge myself on prawns for all three, or six (depending on which magazine you read) meals a day. I might never get the chance to make enough money to eat that much seafood though. There simply won’t be any edible creepy crawlies left in the ocean by the time the world wakes up to the fact that film critics are a basic need and therefore should be paid accordingly.


The feature documentary, The End of the Line, focuses on the plundering of the sea. Because the depths of the ocean are largely hidden from us, the conservation of marine life does not get nearly as much attention as the conservation of land-based wildlife. While the scourge of rhino poaching has made headlines in South Africa and elsewhere in recent months, there has been little focus on the poaching of the ocean.

The documentary is based on the work of investigative reporter, Charles Clover, who also wrote a book on the matter. His research shows that the fishing industry has simply become too tech-savvy for the ocean’s creatures to keep up. The seas, he says, is not a “food factory”. Unlike many other conventional sources of food, fish is not renewable. Cattle can be reared; crops can be grown; fish are just taken from the sea and consumed. Glover warns that if fishing continues the way it does now, we will see the end of most seafood by 2048.


Bluefin tuna, for example, which once fed Roman legions during battle, now feeds the fashion conscious at sushi bars. Countless species – including prawns – are being decimated. This, despite international laws which prohibit fishing in areas where there’s hardly anything left. As Glover points out, “Every other fish on your plate was stolen – stolen from you.”


The problem is not only compounded by a lack of political will, or the financial impact on global fishing conglomerates. What about the livelihood of individuals whose main source of income is the ocean? In Canada, 1992 saw the collapse of cod stocks off the Newfoundland coast, forcing the government to place a moratorium on fishing cod. 40 000 people lost their jobs overnight, sparking riots and mass demonstrations. It didn’t even matter though – fishing stocks have still not recovered and neither have the communities.


The End of The Line is well-researched and balanced, but this is its downfall. Audiences want to be entertained. Documentaries are notoriously difficult to promote as feature films, simply because people associate movies with leisure. Documentaries that have done well commercially, such as An Inconvenient Truth, had celebrity punch (or in this case, the political clout of Al Gore). Having Ted Danson (does anyone even remember him?) narrate the film is not enough.


Gluttonous sushi-lovers are depleting fish stocks.


Even visually, the film does not push boundaries when it should. It’s unfortunate but a bit more blood, the glassy eyes of hordes of dead fish and groups of starving people would hit a lot harder than graphs and researchers explaining the problem. There is, a nice symbolic series of close-up shots at the end of the film, showing the gluttonous masses stuffing sashimi and other ocean delicacies into their mouths. This is followed by a fast-forward sequence of factory lines where fish is packed en masse, ready for consumption. Why the director did not use these kinds of visual metaphors across the film is a mystery.


Documentaries like The End of the Line simply do not have mass appeal, which is a shame as a very compelling message is lost on the very people it is intended for. The film did lead to celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, removing bluefin tuna out of his recipes, while several UK supermarkets have stopped selling some endangered fish species. It’s just not the same as having Paris Hilton (much as I cannot stand her) denouncing sushi made from the last surviving salmon in the Atlantic.

Director: Rupert Murray
Rating: 2½ out of 5

For more information on what fish to buy or which restaurants and retailers promote responsible consumption in South Africa, visit http://www.wwfsassi.co.za/.

The End of the Line will be screened at selected Ster Kinekor and Nu Metro cinemas.

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The supervillain, the three Annies and the million minions



Supervillain, Gru, and his willing minions.



After the disaster that was umpteenth Shrek, comes an animated film that is both entertaining and witty, though perhaps a tad predictable. Despicable Me is Universal Pictures’ first CGI feature and Pixar may have to watch out.


In a friendly suburban neighbourhood stands the dark and dreary house of the world’s greatest villain, Gru (voice of Steve Carell). He is the kind of man who takes pleasure in popping children’s balloons and watching them cry. Beneath his house, Gru has a secret laboratory where, he, his assistant – the aptly named Dr Nefario (voice of Russell Brand) – and their myriad yellow, pill-shaped minions develop all kinds of gadgets with which to take over the world.


But, Gru’s reputation is threatened when another baddie steals the pyramids and makes headlines as the world’s new über villain. Gru realises he needs to pulls off his greatest heist yet – stealing the moon. However, his funds are as miserly as he is and, thus, he approaches the Bank of Evil (formerly Lehman Brothers – really) for a loan. Gru’s credit rating is akin to that of a student and he is told he has to steal the shrink ray he needs to complete the job, before he will receive the money.


To Gru’s consternation, his nemesis, the annoying and geeky Vector (voice of Jason Segel), procures the shrink ray before he can. Now, Gru has to steal it back from Vector’s fortress and Gru is at his wits’ end. After all, what kind of villainous legacy can one leave when trumped by a teenager whose greatest invention is a piranha gun? 


When three orphan girls selling cookies knock on Gru’s door, he formulates a master plan. He decides to adopt Margo, Edith and Agnes (voices of Miranda Cosgrove, Elsie Fisher and Dana Gaier), so they can sell cookies to Vector and distract him. In the meantime, Gru and a couple of minions steal the shrink ray. The scenes of the break in and subsequent theft are as hilarious as they are tense.

The three little Annies, who steal Gru’s heart.

After this, the story unsurprisingly turns into Annie. The girls draw on Gru’s walls, demand he walk them to ballet classes and destroy his lab. Nevertheless, while Gru is, at first, not the kind and loving father they had hoped for, the orphan trio crawl turns his heart to mush and all of a sudden he’s Oliver Warbucks.


Carell is known for his comic timing in the U.S. version of The Office (*note – which is not nearly as funny as the original British version) and his German-accented Gru is no different. The dialogue is filled with enough real-world reference for adults to appreciate, while children will love the cute, bumbling minions and naughty children – a perfect family film then.


Despicable Me has been released in 3D, something that has become an unfortunate trend with animated films. The gimmick is wearing off and the in-your-faceness of this technology often detracts from the story and animation itself. Rather spend the money on popcorn and Slush Puppies and leave the cinema with the fuzzy feeling created by the series of ‘awe’-moments at the end, instead of a headache.


Directors: Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud
Cast: Steve Carrell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews
Rating: 3½ out of 5