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A man lies and dreams of green fields and rivers

- Pink Floyd

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Sep 27, 2018

Aqua Negra Film Review: An Introspective Spearfishing Adventure

Two filmmakers embark on a rugged island adventure to pursue the unknown

WRITTEN BY

Davey Braun

Spearfishing is a necessary way of life to many people around the planet, including the locals on Cape Verde island. To a few dedicated individuals, like the ones in this film, they’ve committed to travel, explore and hunt in the midst of the food chain as a lifestyle. In Aqua Negra, spearfishing is not portrayed as a sport. There is no competition for the biggest catch, no first place medal. A small crew tests their patience, skill and grit in the waters off Cape Verde island, in a way, to examine destiny itself.

To view the film, CLICK HERE.

It exposes the rare perspective of humans as a vulnerable part of the food chain.

The film opens with the following bold, yet oxymoronic disclaimer: “The following film contains awesome spearfishing material that could be offensive to some.” If you’re sensitive to hunting or fishing footage, then you should probably watch something else. However, this film is not just for fishing enthusiasts. It transcends spearfishing. It exposes the rare perspective of humans as a vulnerable part of the food chain and the nitty-gritty of what it takes when we forgo grocery stores and go straight to the source for our food.

The cinematic introduction to the film subverted my expectations. Instead of a spearfishing documentary, this is an artistic film about searching. With monochrome color grading, faded silhouettes and somber music reminiscent of the score from American Beauty, the serious tone surprised me.

After a brief explanation about what motivates David Ochoa to pursue his passion, the film shifts its tone from melancholy to wondrous. The score sweeps with awe, on par with the soundtrack for Planet Earth. After a quick chapter marker, the switch to color makes the establishing shot of Cape Verde look utterly unreal.

Their auteur approach is exemplified in the film’s non-linear structure.

If your only exposure to spearfishing is through Instagram, you might think it’s something you do on vacation, glamorous even. However, throughout the film, as David pursues the unknown, we can see the struggles of a spearfisher – the miles he must walk back to camp due to the currents, the frustrations of trying to find support from locals, the sheer danger of shark encounters and the loss when “the taxman” takes a huge bite out of his catch.

Filmmakers Ricardo Nascimento and David Ochoa have taken this project very seriously. Their auteur approach is exemplified in the film’s non-linear structure. Taking inspiration from Tarantino, the film is divided into non-sequential chapters that keep the audience engaged, unable to predict the story arch. David’s narration is introspective and unguarded.

Shot Selection

There are several brilliant montages of colorful biodiversity and marine life.

The variety of shots in this film is impressive. There are several brilliant montages of colorful biodiversity and marine life. The wide shots introducing each new chapter are stunning, especially Chapter 3. In contrast, there are plenty of close-up spearfishing action shots and seamless switches from third person to POV underwater footage. During one scene where David wrestles a massive, six foot long fish to the surface, I had the strange thought that when I scratched an itch on my nose, my hands would smell like fish.

The sound design is top notch as well. As David narrates his story, you can faintly pick out subtle seagull noises and just the right amount of wind in the background. Also, that familiar “tang” sound of the spear hitting the rock triggered me to load up my spear and get in the water.

Coloring the Abyss

The professional quality color grading establishes deep saturations, with rich reds and vivid blues. However, the grading overall is too dark for my taste. The strong contrast and stylized grading may take away from the rugged realness of Cape Verde. Can it truly look that beautiful?

The Dividing Line

The film presents a solid profile and background for its central focus, David Ochoa’s search for challenging, yet rewarding spearfishing spots around Cape Verde. However, if I could impose myself in the editing room, I’d suggest a more balanced inclusion of Valentine Thomas, a world record holding spearfisher in her own right, who also has an inspirational background.

Moreover, because each spearfisher is covered head to toe in their wetsuit, mask and large fins, you can’t identify who is who underwater.

Read Next on The Outdoor Journal: Dive into the Deep Unknown with Kimi Werner, a 37-year-old Hawaiian professional free diver and a decorated spear fisher.

Going Deep

Dock6 Films impressively shows that a small crew and budget can result in high-end production.

Agua Negra is an absorbing, artistic film about spearfishing and chasing the unknown. Dock6 Films impressively shows that a small crew and budget can result in high-end production. For those with an adventurous spirit, Agua Negra’s story will draw you in. Although at some points I was confused whether the filming was taking place in realtime or whether the filmmakers went back to film a reshoot based on earlier experiences. Overall, even those who are completely new to spearfishing will appreciate the film’s sense of exploration and wonder.

To view the film Agua Negra, CLICK HERE.

For general information about the movie, check out the Dock6 Films website.

You can see more photos and footage on Instagram @aguanegrathemovie

Images: Dock6 Films

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Apr 23, 2019

Netflix’s “Our Planet” and that Walrus Scene

This time, it’s uncomfortable. David Attenborough pulls off yet another incredible nature documentary - but beyond the 'wilderness porn', we're finally being shown what we need to see.

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WRITTEN BY

Sean Verity

There have been complaints. The producers of Our Planet have been forced to defend themselves. Netflix have subsequently shared time-codes, so that viewers know exactly when to look away.


But this was something that had to be included in the final edit. We cannot hide from the effect we’re having on our planet any longer.

Courtesy of Netflix

WARNING: You might find the below behind the scenes footage distressing, but we encourage you to watch it.

According to David Attenborough’s narration, these gigantic animals are forced to summit an 80-metre cliff out of total desperation. With sea ice in decline, their natural habitat has disappeared, the beaches are overly crowded, and they have nowhere else to go to simply rest.

Once rested, the walruses need to get moving in search of food. And the horror begins. Having put themselves in a precarious position, the walruses attempt their descent, and it doesn’t take long before they tumble to their deaths.

Courtesy of Netflix

Climbing on to rocky, steep cliffs is not what walruses would naturally do, given a choice. It’s what they must do to survive. It’s a shocking illustration of the effects of global warming. As Sophie Lanfear, the wildlife documentary producer and director behind the episode, said, “This is the sad reality of climate change. They’d be on the ice if they could.”

For a long time, documentaries have shared beautiful images of wild nature, and perhaps painted a picture of the world that is misleading. Their beautiful images have told us, “wild nature still exists, out there, beyond humanity’s touch, and it is there forever”. But that is not so. The earth is at threat. And thus, beautiful images are no longer helpful. We instead need to understand the damage that is being done.

Read Next: Wilderness Porn

It is not just TV documentaries. Most of us are guilty are creating and sharing images of this ‘Wilderness Porn’ on social networks such as Instagram, painting selective, false and unreal pictures of today’s harsh reality. You can read The Outdoor Journal’s Wilderness Porn article by clicking the image below.

Courtesy of Netflix

The New York Times ran with an article that read “A Netflix Nature Series Says to Viewers: Don’t Like What You See? Do Something About It”. It’s an imperative point to make, and organisations such as WWF have tried to harness the increased awareness to achieve exactly that. The Outdoor Journal also recently published Three Things Everyone Can Do to Fight Climate Change Right Now, in addition to 5 petition that you should sign today.

 

Introducing The Outdoor Voyage

Whilst you’re here, given you believe in our mission, we would love to introduce you to The Outdoor Voyage – our booking platform and online marketplace which only lists good operators, who care for sustainability, the environment and immersive, authentic experiences. All listed prices are agreed directly with the operator, and we promise that 86% of any money spent ends up supporting the local community that you’re visiting. Click the image below to find out more.

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