By Archie Grant
Fife filmmakers Trufflepigfilms’s latest release, Of Fish and Foe is a stark account of the often bitter conflict which sees traditional Scottish farmers and fishermen at odds with modern day environmentalism. The film follows the Pullar family, a family of traditional net salmon fisher based in the village of Crovie in Aberdeenshire. Their fishing methods have been handed down the generations but in modern times the family have come up against increasingly restrictive fish regulation, and more recently environmental activist who document their fishing practices.
The group of environmentalists the film follows, Sea Shepherds, believe that the practices of the Pullar family are barbaric. They regularly document their fishing, free animals from nets and, most controversially, attempt to stop the family from shooting seals which damage fishing nets by placing themselves into potential danger in order to save animals.
The conflict documented in the film shows how increasingly, in modern nations like Scotland, traditional animal hunting techniques are being seen as barbaric by a growing number of people. The conflict in the film between the fishermen and environmentalists often seems petty and part of a larger desire of one side who seeks the destruction or silence of the other.
In the opening quarter of the film, the idea that net fishing is decimating salmon is well presented and while this is true, during the closing scenes of the film the director also highlights how traditional anglers catch far more salmon than the net fisherman. This, in the penultimate scenes of the film, shows the audience a different level of the conflict and how the family face legal attacks from fisherman who try to ensure that fish stocks are better protected only in order to improve their catches.
While watching the film, it’s hard not to position oneself on one side of the dispute.The film features ever escalating conflict and as a result it’s easy at certain moments to be pulled into the dispute and to feel intense emotion directed at particular people on screen, yet at other moments the viewer often finds themselves repulsed by the absurdity of some of the conflict between the two groups.
Overall the film is an exciting look at the modern clash between fishermen and activists. The director takes care to show an unbiased account of the arguments of both sides while also giving us a look into a unique fishing practice slowly beginning to fade from Scottish life. There seems to be little room left in society for a dying trade such net fishing, especially with such vocal opposition, and in the closing scenes it is hard not to pity the circumstances the Pullar family find themselves in. The film is an excellent documentary from the fledgling Trufflepigfilms.