Opening in Ireland on 29 April, Risteard Ó Domhnaill's Atlantic is narrated by Emmy Award-winner Brendan Gleeson, and was awarded the Best Irish Documentary prize at the recent Audi Dublin International Film Festival.
Shot across Ireland, Norway and Newfoundland in Canada by Scannáin Inbhear/Inver Films, Atlantic expands upon the controversial subject matter of his previous film – the experiences of Rossport residents opposed to Shell's prospect in the Corrib gas field – to tell a wider story of threats to coastal communities not only in Ireland, but around the North Atlantic Rim.
Atlantic follows the fortunes of three small fishing communities as they struggle to maintain their way of life in the face of mounting economic and ecological challenges.
As the oil majors drive deeper into their fragile seas, and the world’s largest fishing companies push fish stocks to the brink, coastal people and the species they rely on may be reaching a point of no return.
In Norway, fishermen and their resource have historically been aggressively protected by national authorities. But as oil fields dwindle and the country now looks to add to its reserves, Arctic cod fisherman Bjornar Nicolaisen is campaigning against seismic testing by the oil explorers criss-crossing his fishing grounds.
On the outer edges of Norway’s five-star economy, seismic blasting is threatening to blow Bjornar’s livelihood out of the water.
Across the ocean in Newfoundland, where an oil boom has hit, fisherman Charlie Kane will likely be the last of his generation to work the sea, after a cod fishing ban in the 1990s brought a world-renowned industry to a halt overnight.
Charlie is thankful his sons can now make a good living on the oil rigs, and won’t need to toil in small boats on Newfoundland’s perilous Grand Banks. But now, as oil prices plummet, their village is once more taking on water, as the the quick money of the black gold rush begins to run dry.
Meanwhile, in the West of Ireland, Jerry Early has seen the heart ripped out of his island after a ban on drift netting for wild salmon. As he fights to regain his fishing rights, and as foreign super-trawlers operate with impunity just offshore, Jerry feels like a criminal on his own boat.
The circumstances could be dire if he defies the 'new order of the ocean', but as the unofficial 'mayor' of a dying island, Jerry feels he has to face up to powerful interests before it’s too late.
Filmed in some of the most remote and breathtaking locations in the North Atlantic, and at close quarters with some of the sea’s most captivating characters, Atlantic brings the very personal stories in the vital resource debate to the fore, exploring how three modern-day communities must learn from the past in order to secure a brighter future.
Risteard O’Domhnaill said of his new film: “My last documentary, The Pipe, told the story of a small coastal community as they faced down one of the world’s most powerful oil companies, which was forcing a high-pressure raw gas pipeline through their farms and fishing grounds.
"The story raised more questions for me than it answered, leading me to look at the politics of our oil and gas prospects off the Irish coast. What has since unfolded is an incredible story of resource mismanagement, and the capture of our offshore riches — oil, gas and fishing — whilst our gaze is elsewhere.
“Unfortunately, what I found when I looked across the Atlantic is that Ireland’s tale is not unique. However, in both Norway and Newfoundland, the lessons learned by similarly affected communities can help us to chart a different course, before our most renewable resources are damaged beyond recognition, or sold to the highest bidders.”
Commenting on his involvement, Brendan Gleeson said: “Atlantic is an engrossing piece of truth-seeking, visually stunning and crafted with clarity and insight. It was an honour to be involved.”
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, Atlantic started as an ambitious crowdfunding project, but is now backed by Bord Scannán na hÉireann (The Irish Film Board), the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation and Nordnorsk Filmsenter (the North Norwegian Film Centre).
The feature-length documentary opens in Dublin exclusively at the Irish Film Institute on Friday 29 April, with director Risteard O’Domhnaill joined by Arranmore and Rossaveal shermen for a discussion following the 8.30pm screening on the first night. For more see the official film website HERE.