If you’re like most people, you don’t think a lot about where your food comes from. Hopefully you think about its nutritional value, and maybe its social/environmental implications (e.g. how much oil was needed to produce it, what kinds of pesticides were required to make it grow beautifully). These are things I teach about, so I tend to think about them quite a lot, and try to make good choices based on what is best for our environment. I live in a rural community, so I actually have the opportunity to get to know some of the local farmers who grow the produce for the market. However, I had never thought about the fishermen who catch fish. Well, it turns out there are better ways to catch better fish.

Justin Simms’ documentary short, HAND.LINE.COD, is attempting to show you exactly that. Fogo Island off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada has a long history of catching cod; they are “people of the fish”. However, due to increased trawlers and low gas prices through the 80s and 90s, the cod fishery collapsed – there weren’t enough cod left in the ocean to make a living catching them. Thankfully, it wasn’t too late. What the fishermen (and women I presume) on Fogo Island want to do is restore the industry and restore their confidence in their identity by using handline fishing. This is exactly what it sounds like – fish caught by hand, one at a time, with bait. It’s been done since the 1600s, and is the general method used by all amateur fishermen in lakes, ponds, and streams.

The way that these particular fishermen can make a living doing it is by nearly eliminating the middle man – they ship these directly to chefs in Toronto who pay twice the market rate for these. The film shows us the difference and, even if this is not the average, the difference is startling. You would want to pay more to eat the handline cod and the men and women who catch it deserve that. The best thing this film does in its short run time is make you think a little harder about something you think very little about.

Screens (as part of Shorts Cut Programme 10):
Wednesday, September 14, 7 PM, Scotiabank
Sunday, September 18, 1:30 PM, Scotiabank

Tickets can be purchased online at tiff.net