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Nettie Wild’s “Go Fish” and V. Zelensky: winning over Toronto

Even more proud to be Canadian. President Zelensky was just here with his wife, the visit an enormous success. The video of the rally with many hundreds of Ukrainian-Canadians spontaneously singing the anthem made me choke up. The Ukrainian leader has been in the eye of a murderous storm for a year and a half, has watched his country and its people be eviscerated, has never lost his spirit or changed his khaki clothes. An exceptional leader and man. Zelensky and Justin Trudeau have a warm, genuine bond. I didn’t hear Trudeau’s speech, but Ken did and said, “Our prime minister is on fire! I’m so proud of him.”

Me too.

Last night was Nuit Blanche, when the city is jammed with arts events through the night. Monique, Annie, and I explored the Danforth in the east end, where so many happy people were meandering along the street or dining on the sidewalk, I couldn’t believe I was in once-staid Toronto!

Before that, we drove to see Nettie Wild’s installation Go Fish at the Aga Khan Museum north of the city. Late! After 8 o’clock! Practically midnight! Nettie had insisted we come after dark, because the installation is spectacular in the dark, she said. And she was right, spectacular is the word.

In 1979 the formidable Nettie Wild and I were part of a group that founded Headlines Theatre in Vancouver, to write and perform plays about topical issues. She has gone on to a stellar career as a documentary filmmaker, living through danger and extreme adventures around the world, winner of many well-deserved awards. Her film Koneline: Our Land Beautiful (recommendation: don’t miss it), shows the contentitious relationship between Indigenous people and miners in northern B.C. As always, Nettie is non-judgemental and unbiased; we see clearly the POV of both sides — in fact, ALL sides, because the struggles are not binary. But her camera immerses us in the extraordinary richness of a natural world that’s at risk.

So too, last night, in Go Fish, shown on three screens in kaleidoscopic beauty — at one point, for the first time in decades, I thought, This would be great to see stoned — she shows the annual herring run in the waters of B. C., many millions of fish captured in giant nets while also pursued by eagles, seals, sea lions, sea birds. It’s a masterpiece of filmmaking, visually complex and bewitching, with a powerful score. Especially stunning watched outside at the serene Aga Khan Museum on a perfect late summer night.

But it’s also horrifying, the relentless scooping of the industrial fishing boats, the deaths of so many living creatures. As a gift to us, Nettie ends with close-ups of countless herring eggs, glistening underwater in the sun, preparing to hatch for next year’s run. There’s hope.

If you are near or in Toronto, run, don’t walk, to catch this gorgeous, deeply moving film. It’s on all week.

Pix: Nettie’s film with moon, and a back view of the lovely museum, with words standing upright in one of its reflecting pools. A blessing to live in this great, embattled city, this week.



2 Responses to “Nettie Wild’s “Go Fish” and V. Zelensky: winning over Toronto”

  1. Mary Jane Mackay says:

    I live on the West Coast and I fear that without any context, this extraordinary work of art is in danger of leaving viewers with the impression that there is an abundance of herring in our waters. This could not be further from the truth; herring on the BC coast have been mismanaged and overfished for over a century and are on the verge of collapse.
    Up until the 1920’s, herring were so abundant that they seemed inexhaustible. Indigenous elders told stories of wading thigh high through herring at spawning time. In Indigenous communities up and down the Strait, herring and their roe were a mainstay food source. In some places herring were arguably more important than salmon. No more. The herring stock that you see in Go Fish spawns in and around Lambert Channel between Denman and Hornby islands and is the last commercially viable herring fishery on the BC coast. (There used to be 5.) And it is barely hanging on to that status.
    The viewers of Go Fish might wonder about the destiny of all these herring being scooped up by fishing vessels. Most are going to feed open-net farm fish whose lice and viruses are a threat to wild salmon. Some will become cat food, and their roe will be sold to Japan.
    Herring are a foundational species at the bottom of a food chain that feeds over 40 species of fish, birds and mammals, including salmon and whales. When they go, other species will go too. The herring fishery needs to be closed to non-Indigenous fishers for as long as it takes populations to replenish themselves and the aquatic food chain they support. Let’s not let Go Fish become a requiem for a once glorious expression of life and abundance on the West Coast!
    Mary Jane MacKay, Denman Island, BC

    • Beth Kaplan says:

      Mary Jane, thank you for this thoughtful response. The film did horrify me with its depiction of the giant boats scooping up millions of fish. Nettie is of course aware of how endangered the species is, but her work is always even-handed.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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