Interview: Filmmaker Jason Taylor Sheds Light on Goa's Struggling Fishermen

Video: Goa. fishing net ~ profit by The Source Project (7 min., 25 sec.)

After 10 years of working as a photographer and filmmaker in the development sector, Jason Taylor launched The Source Project, a self-funded venture looking to create multimedia that positively connects and communicates some of the most important environmental issues that we, our societies and our cultures face. The Source Project aims in particular to shed light on agriculture through a focus on real farmers, highlighting their knowledge for the majority of people who have become disconnected from the source of their food.

Taylor is British but not based out of the U.K. because he's always on the road, in search of the next story. His stories have taken him to different parts of India and Uganda, and his Indian films and images are licensed through Creative Commons so that others can share his work. Describing what he does as "very much work in progress," the filmmaker has moved away from the traditional confrontational format and instead lets his subjects tell their stories.

On a trip to Goa in June 2012, Taylor noticed a decline in the local fishing industry — and so evolved another story, the one related in his video, above. Taylor responded to Asia Blog's questions about his recent short documentary via email.

How did you come across this story, and why did you choose Gokuldas [the principal fisherman in the video] to be the narrator?

I spend a lot of time in Goa, maybe three months ... a friend lets me build a beach hut on his land every year. I use the time to rest, eat, read and try to work out where I will be the following year. In front of the land are the fishing boats of the fishermen from the local village. Years ago I remember them coming back in, early in the morning, with baskets of fish; lately I noticed they were not even really going out. Every year there are more and more fishermen on the beach chasing tourists for dolphin trips and every year there are more and more trawlers out off the coast, more oil in the sea and less fish in the local market. Guru and his father Gokuldas' boat sits just in front of my hut, he speaks good English and one day I just asked how life had changed for them over the past 10 years, [and] this was his story.

The film has rich visuals and a very calm mood despite the hardships Gokuldas describes. Why did you choose to tell it in this manner and use only one voice?

This is the life of the fishermen and the sea, everything is very calm. I find it amazing they do so little about the current exploitation but then at the same time realize that it is very much the Indian temperament, just to let things take their course. There is very little they can do anyway. Most of the fishing industry is run with black money, small mafia and government groups continue to exploit natural resources. If you stand up, more often than not you are knocked back down. There is a lot of money to be made in exploitation, and time is running out.

Were there any challenges to getting access, and did you try talking to any of the companies that run trawlers?

Yes, I went to talk to some trawler owners and even tried to talk to the head of ports, but was warned against it. They know what is taking place and they will do anything to protect themselves. There are laws and these laws are broken, often by the people making them. India is known to be the largest democracy in the world, but this only applies to the minority of the population, the rest must just sit back and be grateful for what they can get. By trying to expose illegal practices you tend to run into people who would rather you didn't, and this can cause more than a few problems for everyone.

How much time did you spend with your characters and what kind of equipment did you use to film, especially all the close-up shots?

I just spent a week with them, a few times getting up at 5:00 am and the rest of the time just meeting them on the beach or having them take me out to the trawlers and getting me on board. I used the Canon 5D MKII with a 50mm 1.4 and an 85mm 1.8. I managed to get hold of a waterproof bag for the camera so I could jump in the sea with it ... a very small and simple kit.

You describe yourself as an activist, and your film has a clear message about how big businesses are affecting the livelihoods of local fishermen. Who is your target audience?

I think I'm trying to find a gap; I want my work to appeal to people between 18 [and] 50s. I know that's wide, but I try and make short films with a very simple message. My primary interest is in stimulating consciousness of these issues. I don't want to lecture or dictate to people and I certainly don't want to shock or bore. It's all so very obvious, what is taking place, and I hope my work acts as some kind of entry point to some of these issues.

About the Author

Profile picture for user Tahiat Mahboob
Tahiat Mahboob is Asia Society's Senior Multimedia Producer. She grew up in Bangladesh, worked at New York Fashion Week and taught at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.