________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 14 . . . . March 15, 2002

cover The Voyage of the 7 Girls: A Year in the Life of a Deep-Sea Longliner.

John Brett (Director/Producer). Kent Martin (NFB Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2001.
73 min., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9101 012.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

*** /4

Join the skipper and crew of an east coast longliner, 7 Girls, on four trips to the North Atlantic fishing grounds. Each season presents different challenges in the hunt for halibut, tuna and swordfish. Filmmaker/Narrator John Brett gives an up-close and personal portrayal of the demanding, often exciting job. Through a journal-style sequence of impromptu interviews, we hear from the skipper and crew whose families wait anxiously at home for the boat's return.

     The film's time-span is one year, framed by successive Christmas celebrations with the Henneberry family of Sambro, Nova Scotia, who have been fishers for several generations. While their profession requires determination, dedication and teamwork, their financial success has made it worthwhile and offers a promising future for the younger members of the clan who wish to carry on the tradition. There is no discussion of the role of conservation issues other than a brief reference to the irony of such success in relation to the industry dilemma of over-fishing.

     The 7 Girls' skippers are risk-takers - getting the jump on the spring halibut fishery by heading out as early as possible. The trick: finding a concentration of fish in a small patch of warmer water in the vast, cold North Atlantic. The reward: the highest market price for their catch, hopefully t o exceed the $30,000 cost of mounting the trip. Using the latest high-tech equipment, the long days pay off. The dangers are accepted philosophically, despite the past loss of a brother at sea. On the isolation from family, the feeling expressed is that the need to stay focused on the job must come first, and wives must cope with raising the kids mostly alone. When the big catches come in - 110 tuna and 40 swordfish "one day last year" - all the mundane, repetitive tasks, the cold, the wet, lack of sleep, suddenly stormy seas and missing the "'firsts"of their young children's lives are justified. Crew members chose this job over a land-based, home-every-night occupation for the big payoffs - a potential $80,000 share of the $2 million profits for the year's work.

     Filmmaker Brett balances views of work and down-time, fun and frustration in a lively presentation. He clearly respects the skills of the fisher: the knowledge needed to find the fish, the dangerous and arduous work of bringing the catch aboard, the experience of careful handling to ensure a quality product. His own equipment problems are documented as one camera takes a dunking and another is broken the day before a big haul. He is forced to resort temporarily to snapshots. The contrast between live-action and still photography is immediately evident. The motion, action and excited voices are lost, and the viewer is distanced from life on board. With a touch of fun, considerable footage is devoted to the skipper's 10-year-old son's first trip, a rare chance for family closeness. Brett also goes along on the truck ride to the Boston market where the catch is sold, bringing the process full circle.


Gillian Richardson is a former teacher-librarian and a published writer of children's fiction and nonfiction, living in BC.

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ISSN 1201-9364