Artifishal

Artifishal is a film about people, rivers, and the fight for the future of wild fish and the environment that supports them. It explores wild salmon’s slide toward extinction, threats posed by fish hatcheries and fish farms, and our continued loss of faith in nature.

A film by Josh “Bones” Murphy

October 22nd, 2019

Artifishal is a film about people, rivers, and the fight for the future of wild fish and the environment that supports them. It explores wild salmon’s slide toward extinction, threats posed by fish hatcheries and fish farms, and our continued loss of faith in nature.

Artifishal, a new documentary about salmon, might, in less capable hands, have been a tiresome screed, another damning diary of how humans have despoiled the Earth.

In salmon’s case, we have interrupted one of the most dramatic cycles of nature, the wild fish’s journey from the rivers where they spawn to the oceans where they grow and back again. The result is that fish have died, species that eat them have died, communities that depend on them have faded, the food supply has been polluted and a lot of tax dollars have been wasted.

Artifishal, directed by Josh “Bones” Murphy and produced by Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia, does tell that story. But that story is only the embers of something more, which the film steadily exhales over, oxygenates and causes to flame up.

In an inspired gambit, Artifishal takes a swerve into the metaphyscial, framing the salmon emergency as a question about the human soul, about what it needs – about what we need – to survive. The contention of the film-makers is that while it may be human nature to seek dominion and control over the rest of nature, the very thing we need to survive is precisely that which defies our control, that thing which, when we seek to subjugate it, instead either slips through our nets, or is caught and dies.

If we drive the wild to extinction, the film suggests, we will bring our own that much closer.

“I really hope the film leaves the viewer with this disquieting question, which is, have we reached the end of wild?” said Murphy in a phone conversation near the end of a tour to promote the movie, which debuted at the Tribeca film festival after a tour of screenings in Patagonia stores.

“At the outset we kept wondering if we would find a bad guy. And we didn’t. In fact, I kept feeling that the force of antagonism was us – we’re the bad guy. Because humans just are always looking out for themselves.”

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