Alive Mind Cinema/ From Kino Lorber

Director: Mark Hall

Cast: Mamoru Sugiyama, Mike Sutton, Alistair Douglas, Daccon Trenor, Hagen Stehr, Tyson Cole

Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 7/19/21

Opens: August 3, 2012

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the most radical of the major organizations for animal rights, would like us all to go vegan, not primarily for environmental reasons but for the welfare of the animals themselves. Mark Hall, who directs the documentary “Sushi: The Global Catch,” is more moderate. He, and some of the members of the interviewed cast, have no ethical problems regarding the rights of fish or, for that matter, any members of the animal kingdom. They explore the fish industry, specifically the sushi segment, for environmental reasons. According to Mr. Hall, human beings are upsetting the ecological system (what a surprise!) specifically by their consumption of Bluefin tuna, a majestic ocean fish, so valued that just one of them was bought at auction for $400,000. By stripping the seas of this huge creature which is at the top of the fish-food pyramid, we are allowing the second-in-line predator fish which are consumed by the Bluefish tuna to live, leading to an oversupply of secondary predators. These secondary predators eat so many of the fish below them on the food chain that there are no terciary fish left. The ironic result? The secondary predators will starve and be eliminated as well, leaving only jelly fish for us to eat (more or less).

The first segment of this documentary deals with the sushi industry in general, noting the greater attention being paid by the world to what is essentially raw fish with rice. As Chinese become richer, they will buy more of these delightful foods, largely made up of wild tuna, which is a big reason that these tuna will become extinct unless we all wise up. Americans, who vulgarize everything, (as Maggie Smith said in one of her pics), have invented sushi on a stick in Texas, helping us humans to empty the seas even further.

“Sushi: The Global Catch,” could have been entitled “Tuna: The Global Catch,” because Mr. Hall is concerned only with that species and has no problem with our eating breem or flounder. He takes us to the world’s largest fish market in Tsukiji, Japan where beginning at three in the morning the fish are auctioned off. These fish are not only domestic but are flown in from the U.S. and Australia and other spots on the globe, the industry taking off when one Japanese fellow realized that JAL 747’s were returning from New York almost empty. He got the idea of using those flights to import tuna to Japan. These fish are frozen and laid out at the market where they are inspected, labeled, and sold, some of the catch going to the trendy sushi restaurants in Japan and one here in the States where patrons are given a four-part card listing those fish which are OK to eat (green labels) and those which are completely verboten (red labels). Unfortunately for the wild Bluefish tuna, only a elite fraction of our population are that concerned with environmentalism, so that tuna could become extinct in five years.

Don’t expect a Michael Moore doc or even something with the timbre of Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me”). The movie is humorless, and that’s not good even for a serious doc. Though much of the film is taken up with images of fishing on the high seas and buying the fish at the market, too much time is taken up by talking heads who sit facing the camera, expounding on their pet peeves. Still, this doc is a handy back-to-back choice with David Gelb’s “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” about the 85-year-old master sushi chef whose subway basement emporium is a prize-winner. So mangia, everyone, but leave some Bluefish tuna for your grandchildren.

Unrated. 75 minutes © 2012 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B-

Acting – C+

Technical – B

Overall – B


By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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