a Dutch thing, you just wouldn’t understand.
In Holland, they love their herring, preferably raw, which they consume
by dangling overhead, like a cartoon cat preparing to devour a squirming mouse.
Unfortunately, the classically Dutch herring industry has fallen on hard
times. Viewers will set sail on one of
the two remaining Dutch commercial herring fishing boats in Leonard Retel Helmrich
& Hetty Naaijkens-Retel Helmrich’s Raw
screens during the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.
tightly knit, religiously devout community of Katwijk is known for its
tradition of herring fishing, but competition from Norwegian crews has drastically
thinned their ranks. Only the Wiron 5
and 6 still venture out, often in Norwegian and Scottish waters. On this outing, much of the skipper’s time is
spent tracking a Norwegian rival skulking nearby. The Wirons still process herring at sea,
using traditional methods, but such days are apparently numbered. In fact, recording the end of the era was a
primary motivation for the Retel Helmrich filmmaking siblings and their
producer In-soo Radstake (a director in his own right, having helmed the intriguing
matter how long the filmmakers hold their breath and jump up and down, critics
will still inevitably compare Raw to
Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Verena Paravel’s Leviathan. However, Raw has the advantage of being
comprehensible. Frankly, Leviathan (on which Leonard Retel Helmrich happened to serve as an uncredited technical advisor) seeks to disorient, whereas Raw presents a vivid sense of the Wiron environment and captures some
striking images. Their scenes of gulls
diving underwater in search of fishy prey are particularly impressive.
further contrast, Raw is also conveys
the personalities of the Wiron crew, while remaining strictly observation in
approach. We see these rugged, inked-up
men praying before each meal. Of course,
they are still sailors, so you know what that means.
is not the Dutch version of a History Channel
reality show. Nonetheless, it is mindful
of the dangers of the job, beginning with the dedication to a monument to
Katwijk fishermen lost at sea. Arguably,
it bears closer comparison to a more accessible Castaing-Taylor documentary, Sweetgrass, which has its merits. Yet, the periodic flashes of earthy humor and
some of the incredible shots primary cinematographer Leonard Retel Helmrich
pulled off further distinguish Raw
Herring. Recommended for patrons of you-are-there-style
documentaries, Raw Herring screens
again tomorrow (4/20), Wednesday (4/24), and next Saturday (4/27) as part of
the World Documentary Competition at this year’s Tribeca.
Labels: Documentary, Dutch cinema, Leonard Retel Helmrich, Tribeca '13