French Filmmaker Paints Contrasting Views of Fishing Villages in Indonesia

French filmmaker and geographer Isabelle Antunes takes a close look at two fishing villages in Central Java and the Moluccas for her new documentary film, 'Fishing Dreams.' (Reuters Photo/Erik De Castro)

By : Diella Yasmine | on 8:13 PM April 17, 2018
Category : Life & Style, Movies

Jakarta. French filmmaker and geographer Isabelle Antunes took a close look at two fishing villages in Bendar, Central Java, and Watlaar Island in the Moluccas for her new documentary film, "Fishing Dreams," screened at the French cultural center IFI in Central Jakarta on Thursday (11/04).

The documentary exposes the contrasting ways that the two fishing communities handle their marine resources.

The residents of Bendar exploit the harvests of the sea without worrying that it may run out of fish.

Meanwhile, the fishing community in Watlaar practices sasi, a traditional management method, to sustain their limited sea resources.

Watlaar vs. Bendar

Sasi is an ancient system of beliefs, rules and rituals that temporarily prohibit local residents from exploiting the resources of a certain territory, plant or animal.

When sasi is enforced, no one, including the owner, can harvest it.

In Watlaar, sasi can be enforced on something as small as a coconut tree. This means no one can pick coconuts from the tree until the sasi is lifted.

Watlaar residents catch mostly trochus, a type of sea snails, to sell wholesale. Sasi helps ensure even distribution of the harvest and the sales' profit.

Problems sometimes occur when residents refuse to sell their precious trochus at the price that the village headman decides.

The contrast with Bendar, a fishing village near Pati on the north coast of Java blessed with abundant marine resources, cannot be starker.

Bendar has a co-operative, an auction house, four schools, three mosques and an electricity grid worthy of a large city.

It has been declared the best fishing village in the archipelago. Bendar is a development success story, Indonesian style.

But as Antunes' documentary shows, Bendar is slowly facing overfishing even when many of its young people have turned their back on the profession.

Overfishing at Bendar is mostly caused by fishermen using modern, big fishing boats, instead of traditional fishing methods.

Overfishing threatens the sustainability of the fishing industry at Bendar, and the lack of interest in fishing among young people makes the community jittery about the village's economic prospect.

Filmmaker Gone Fishing

Antunes said the idea to make Fishing Dreams came when she was doing her doctoral thesis 18 years ago.

She submitted the thesis, titled "Local Development of Fishing in Indonesia, Between Political Unity and Cultural Diversity," to Paris' Sorbonne University.

Since then, Isabelle has been working as a development specialist in Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, New Caledonia and Africa.

Antunes said documentary film is her medium of choice for communicating and promoting development goals.

"Film is the best medium to raise awareness on such a heavy topic. Make it as interesting as possible so they [audiences] can understand it," she said.

Antunes has also made another feature documentary film called "Reve de peche en Indonesie"(Dream Fishing in Indonesia) that was broadcast on France 2, France 3, La Cinq, RFO and TV5 Monde.

Both her films are released through a production house she founded called La fabrique du geographe.

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