Whoever thought that our heart-healthy, low-cal, doctor-approved trips to the supermarket fish counter would become fraught with moral choices?
That's exactly the case being made by "The End of the Line," the disturbing new documentary on what overfishing is doing to the world's oceans. (It opens in Los Angeles next Friday.) The film from director Rupert Murray and investigative journalist Charles Clover was screened Monday at UCLA to mark World Oceans Day. Producer Lawrence Bender and longtime environmental activist Kelly Meyer (wife of Universal Pictures President Ron Meyer) hosted a crowd that included Rosario Dawson, Saffron Burrows and Kimberly Estrada.
Afterward, the serious-minded group stayed to hear scientific experts discuss what the last few decades of factory-style overfishing have done to the global marine environment.
There's a new optimism stirring among activists in this community because after eight years of outright hostility emanating from the Bush White House toward environmental issues, the Obama administration is more willing to engage questions that involve complex international questions.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, June 13, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
'Food, Inc.': The Cause Celebre column in Friday's Calendar section said the documentary "Food, Inc." was made by Participant Productions. The production company is Participant Media.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, June 17, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
Cause Celebre: The Cause Celebre column in Friday's Calendar said that actor Morgan Freeman attended a benefit for the marine conservation group Oceana with his model girlfriend. The woman was Freeman's longtime producing partner, Lori McCreary.
"The End of the Line," based on Clover's groundbreaking book of the same title, is the first feature-length documentary to take on the overfishing crisis.
According to the filmmakers, failure to take quick action will mean the end of most commercial fishing within less than half a century with dire consequences both in terms of depleting the food supply and the loss of jobs.
To make their case, Murray and Clover not only traveled to fishing grounds all over the world, but also confronted politicians and celebrity restaurateurs on camera.
As examples of what's in store for other popularly consumed species, Murray and Clover examine in detail the near extinction of commercial cod stocks and the impending collapse of bluefin tuna populations around the world, much of the latter caused by the West's newly aroused appetite for sushi and sashimi.
(Add that happy thought to your deliberations the next time you're trying to decide whether to spring for the toro at the local sushi bar.)
George Duffield, who co-produced the film with Claire Lewis, argues that "Overfishing is the great environmental disaster that people haven't heard about. We hope this film really sounds the alarm. We can fix this problem starting right now."
$100,000 to help save the oceans
Meanwhile -- miles further inland, but still part of World Oceans Day -- entertainment executive Keith Addis' lovely old Spanish-style villa on the hillside above Griffith Park was the setting for an event Monday benefiting Oceana, the global marine conservation group (Addis is chairman of the group's board).
The highlight was presentation of a $100,000 check by the aptly named cosmetic cream La Mer, whose representatives circulated among the 200 or so guests with open containers of the high-end skin cream.
The party was held poolside, so guests could avail themselves of the stunning city view. Morgan Freeman and his strikingly young model girlfriend were among them, as was Oceana's designated shark spokeswoman, "Mad Men's" January Jones, wearing a sleeveless chiffon yellow dress and puffing on a cigarette, as she described diving with the sharks for Oceana. (Somehow, you'd have thought that job would have gone to somebody at Endeavor.)
Jones said she's always found sharks beautiful and intriguing and she's getting ready to go to Belize for another dive with them.
"I have been entranced by sharks ever since I can remember." said Jones. "They have roamed the oceans for millions of years, but now scientists have found that shark populations are now crashing around the world largely because tens of millions of sharks are killed by commercial fishing each year. We should be scared for sharks."
Food issues don't end with fishing
Just in case you were planning to avoid all the issues raised by overfishing -- not to mention the lingering questions over hormones and antibiotics in beef and the conditions in those industrial chicken coops -- by sticking with processed foods, think again.
"Food, Inc.," a documentary opening today, explores this country's large-scale food production conglomerates and the toll their products take on public health.
"Food, Inc." is the latest offering from Participant Production, an L.A. entertainment company founded five years ago to produce socially conscious features and documentaries.
The company goes a step further with its release campaigns, organizing educational efforts and opportunities for activism based on each film's message.
In this case, the opportunities Participant is proffering to audience members moved by the film are as wide-ranging as the problem itself, such as the Healthy Lunchbox Initiative, which supports Congressional reauthorization of an enhanced Child Nutrition Act with provisions giving healthier foods to kids in federally funded school lunch programs.
That includes removing hormone-laden dairy products, irradiated meat, soda and junk food while increasing the amount of fresh produce.
Later this summer, the campaign will include broadcast and online public service announcements featuring Martin Sheen, Alyssa Milano, Rosanna Arquette, Ellen Page, Kelly Preston, Anthony LaPaglia, Gia Carides, Brenda Strong, Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon, Shawn Pyfrom, Keisha Whitaker, Ken Baumann, Kelli Williams, Dave Lieberman, Rene Auberjonois and former NBA player John Salley.
The campaign also will support passage of a federal menu labeling bill, modeled after California's requirement that chain restaurants publish nutritional information on their menu items.