“Dead in the Water,” a documentary about the impact of government regulations on the New England commercial fishing industry, will have an encore screening at the Chatham Orpheum Theater Saturday, Aug. 31, at 10 a.m.
Filmmaker David Wittkower will attend the showing, which will include a question and answer session with local fishermen.
The one-hour film was shown at the Orpheum a year ago and has since played at a number of festivals and won an award at a film festival in Alaska, said Wittkower. In all, the film has won nine awards.
Based in Los Angeles, Wittkower attended high school in Rockport. While visiting his parents, he noticed fewer fishing boats at the docks in Gloucester and began talking to local residents about the problems being experienced by commercial fishermen. Angela Sanfilippo, president of the Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association, schooled him on the details of the regulations that were changing the way the industry operates. She helped him break through the wariness of fishermen unhappy with the way the media has portrayed the industry. Wittkower financed the film on his own, with help from the Fishermen's Wives Association, and spent about four years working on it.
Fishermen tell their story in the film, detailing the government bureaucracy and scientific community's conflicting vision of the industry.
Wittkower said he hopes both locals and visitors will attend the screening.
“We want people to be upset, we want people to be angry,” he said. “Because if they're not, they'll leave the theater, forget about it and nothing will be done. If people leave and are upset, then change will be made, hopefully.”
The film has gained endorsements from Gov. Charlie Baker, Congressman Seth Moulton and Joseph Kennedy III, Wittkower said. “That's a big plus. Now we know there is interest from big hitters.”
“I think the locals know what's going on,” he said, but it's the visitors “who may have no idea” who can take the message home with them and help spark change.
At recent screenings, Wittkower has been partnering with restaurants to include tastings of fresh fish. At a screening in Minneapolis in May, freshly caught fish were flown in from Gloucester and prepared by five local chefs. For many people who get their fish frozen from places like Fiji and Vietnam, the taste of fish right off the boat is a revelation, he said.
“People got to taste what fresh fish was. That was the point of the event,” he said. The reaction to the film from these audiences is often surprising, he added. “A lot of them were horrified after they saw the film. They couldn't believe what was going on with the fishermen.” Over the next year, he hopes to do more screenings paired with fresh fish tastings.
“It's not just a screening of a film, it's an education,” Wittkower said. He hopes people, wherever they live, start asking for fish freshly caught by American fishermen, in order to preserve the industry, its jobs and the communities it supports.
Tickets for “Dead in the Water” are $20 and available now at the Orpheum website, www.chathamorpheum.org.
“Dead in the Water”
At the Chatham Orpheum Theater
Saturday, Aug. 31, 10 a.m.
Film followed by question and answer session
Tickets: $20, available at www.chathamorpheum.org