The End of the Line
Credits: Directed by Rupert Murray
Details: 85 mins , In Cinemas 13 May 2010, United Kingdom, English
Synopsis: Based on the book by former Telegraph journalist Charles Clover, and filmed over two years, The End of the Line provides a dramatic exposé of those in power who are taking advantage of the seas with catastrophic consequences on the world’s fish supplies. With many species on the brink of extinction and mind-blowing evidence that the world may very soon face a future with very few fish, there has never been a more pressing need to bring this issue to the fore. The End of the Line shows that we can all enjoy fish, but encourages viewers to think more carefully about where their fish is coming from.
The documentary has taken on a very cranky persona ever since big-man provocateur Michael Moore decided enough was enough. Inspired by Moore’s thinly-veiled and hugely-entertaining jibes at the motor industry (Roger & Me, 1989), the gun lobby (Bowling for Columbine, 2002), the Bush Administration (Fahrenheit 9/11, 2004), the health sector (Sicko, 2007) and big business (Capitalism: A Love Story, 2009), a new generation of factual filmmakers are striving to make the world a better place by exposing injustice and hypocrisy, and calling audiences to action.
The latest example of this ‘Cinema of Outrage’ sub-genre is Rupert Murray’s The End of the Line. Structured like a cross between Davis Guggenheim’s preachy climate slideshow An Inconvenient Truth (2006) and Louie Psihoyos’ teeth-grindingly shocking expose The Cove (2009), Murray informs, educates and infuriates his audience about the flagrant abuse of non-renewable life forms in the world’s oceans.
Guided by the soothing tones of green-leaning actor Ted Danson, Murray adapts Charles Clover’s book into a disturbing and compelling film. Clover himself features heavily, as Murray follows the aqua-activist as he confronts government officials, restaurant owners and celebrity chefs for answers on why endangered species such as blue-fin tuna and marlin still feature in trade arrangements and exclusive menus.
Unlike Guggenheim, who allowed frontman Al Gore and his slides far too much screen time, Murray avoids focussing narrowly onto any one individual; as such, his film is saved from annoying ‘crusader’ rants (though Clover comes close at times). He backs his claims with precise scientific data, but not so much that it numbs the brain’s receptors. And he maintains balance by acknowledging the traditional rights of the fisherman and the role their catch plays in nourishing the third world.
Perhaps predictably, Murray nails down corporate greed, government ambivalence and inadequate regulation and enforcement, as the root causes of our planet’s over-fishing. Revelations about the tonnes of wasted sealife caught and discarded annually and the destructive effects of practices such as bottom-trawling, are head-spinning in their immensity.
Cinema of Outrage documentaries run the risk of being very heavy-handed and repetitive in conveying the message. The audience does not need a cavalcade of gorgeous underwater cinematography, showing the myriad of life forms that should dominate the oceans. The slow motion, colour-enriched anthropomorphisizing of our finned friends overstates their right to life and begins to feel a little like filler footage. The Cove was guilty of such extremes, too; it’s a strength of Moore’s films that he rarely dips into the aesthetically-pleasing cinematic toolbox to get his points across (though, let’s face it, making him photogenically appealing... that’s a big ask).
Murray demands a response from his audience – the film ends with a call to arms for all those who have sat idly by as our oceans are drained of life, and the filmmaker cites actionable ways that the average person can take a stand.
If some documentary purists bemoan the trend away from films that relate to mankind’s history, surely we can’t begrudge this new wave of factual film directors their demands that we influence our collective future.
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