82 Minutes, 2015
How could I not love this movie? It is filled with some of my favorite action heroes, great imagery, a timely story ... and it is all about salmon.
The action heroes are, for me, legendary leaders in giving voice to the creature that, more than anything else, represents the wild Pacific Northwest. First, there is David James Duncan, author of The River Why, intrepid fisherman, river lover and unceasing voice demanding the removal the four lower Snake River dams.
Then there is Billy Frank Jr., who brought the wisdom and respect of Native elders to the table, unceasingly working to maintain salmon as part of all Native peoples diets, economies and culture.
Ray Troll, funny and serious, whose artistry becomes almost fish worship, reminding so many people of the beauty, diversity, uniqueness and quirky individuality of a creature most only encounter on their plate.
Thomas Quinn, translating the science into logical and often difficult decisions which need to favor salmon over economic interests for ours and future generations.
Bruce Brown, who got so many people thinking about the plight of salmon with his landmark 1982 book, Mountain in the Clouds: A Search for the Wild Salmon (still a great read).
Alexandra Morton, leading the fight for orcas and salmon in British Columbia, taking on the powerful fish farming industry through research, documentation, and action.
And the many People of Bristol Bay, Alaska, standing tall, demanding that we make the hard choice for long term salmon rather than immediate corporate profit through development of the Pebble Mine.
These are all my heroes, and if you get involved with salmon in any way, they will become yours. This movie weaves them into a narrative that takes you from the Snake River in Idaho, down the Columbia to urban Johnson Creek in Portland, up to the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula, north to the Broughton Peninsula in BC Canada, the Tongass rainforest in southeast Alaska, and finally to the Bristol Bay watershed in southwestern Alaska. Each place highlights a different issue; dams, urban and industrial pollution, hatcheries, logging, fish farming and mining. Each place is a story, one most of us are familiar with, but which needs to be told over and over again until the reality of what is happening sinks in, and we take the appropriate action in favor of wild fish.
When I first heard about the film The Breach, I immediately thought it was another film focusing on the breaching of the two dams on the Elwha River. It came out just after the last dam was removed, and when the other great recent salmon movie was released; The Return of the River. While this film does include the Elwha story, “the breach” in the title refers to is a different, more fundamental break.
The film begins (and ends) with a powerful voice, one with a strongly Gaelic accent. She is the voice of nature, the voice of wild salmon. She begins by telling about wild Atlantic salmon in Europe and northeastern North America, too numerous to count, seemingly inexhaustible. The voice tells the story of a fisherman catching a small fish. The fish assures the man that if he lets it go, allowing it to live and grow, it will come back in great numbers. It is representative of stories told all over the world; the respectful agreement between human and animal, be it buffalo, or sea otter or salmon, that if you care for them, they will continue to provide some of the things you need.
The movie is about this breach trust; the compact between man and his natural world. It is eloquent, timely, and visually rich.
Get this movie. If you are a teacher, show it to your students. Most public libraries should have it (if not, request that they get a copy). To buy a copy, go to www.kinolorber.com or www.kinolorberedu.com.