Fish Eye (2020)
By: Ali Moosavi
Fish Eye is a documentary which was planned to be shown at the Visions du Réel 2020 Film Festival in Switzerland. Director Amin Behroozzadeh, who has also photographed, edited, composed the music and supervised the sound recording, lets us follow with him the inhabitants of a fishing trawler as it sails in the ocean. Apart from the Captain, the Captain’s mates and the cook, who are Iranian, the rest of the crew are African. While waiting to reach a fish-rich part of the ocean, the crew busy themselves with watching African films; possibly Nollywood movies from Nigeria, the world’s third highest film producing country after USA and India. They’ve also been given sim cards by one of the Iranian crew and gather on the ship deck to call family and friends.
When a group of people are together for such long periods, a certain bond develops between them and they become each other’s second families. In fact, most such workers do not see their family more than one time a year, if they are lucky. The African crew appear to belong to an evangelical church and carry out their colourful prayer rituals aboard the boat with one of them acting as the preacher. Interestingly, the Iranian Captain joins in their prayers. It is not clear whether he has sought some comfort in Christianity or is just trying to make his crew feel that he is part of their family. For the New Year, the Iranian cook bakes a giant chocolate cake which the crew wash down with beer. Inevitably, singing and dancing follows with the Captain joining in.
Behroozzadeh’s camera follows the fish from roaming free in the ocean and jumping over the waves to their capture and fruitless struggle to break free while life is slowly drained out of them as they travel on the carousel of doom. In a way they are a mirror image of the crew for whom life is a constant struggle for survival. They are paid just enough to be content and turn the wheels of capitalism. To endure this life, they turn to their religion, or opium as Marx famously interpreted it. One thing that Behroozzadeh’s camera cannot convey to the viewers is the overbearing smell of fish and sea water in such ships which makes living in them a real endurance test.
Behroozzadeh has laced his documentary with some poetic shots of white seagulls against the black sky and beautiful sunsets. These enticing shots to some degree offset the distress caused by the camera lingering close to the fish as they stare into our eyes while they are perishing away. Like any good documentary maker, Behroozzadeh has stayed in the background, allowing us to get close to his subjects, which are both the hunting crew and the hunted fish. Fish Eye will make you eye fish in a different light.