The fishermen from Orbetello span both the land and sea, the past and future.
Director Walter Bencini accompanies a group of Tuscan fishermen for a period of four years and documents the journey in I Cavallieri della Laguna, or The Knights of the Lagoon. In the Ortobello Lagoon, the fishermen band together to create a socio-economic community where they continue executing the ancient craft of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers in a changing world. As the movie’s title suggests, they fight for a noble cause, championing sustainability over mass production, craft versus industrialization, and passion over indifference.
“Fishing means to bring to the people a product and at the same time to tell them the story behind the product”, one of the fishermen explains. In reality, this means to abolish the borders of the supply chain. And on an everyday basis that means fishermen are much more than their name suggests.
The fisherman, typical gruff Italian men, tell funny and melancholy stories about humans, nature, passion, and conflicts. From them, we learn that they seek to protect the sustainability of the industry and the health of the lagoon while upholding past tradition. They offer us a glimpse into their human journeys through their stories and footage.
Bencini paints a beautiful picture of the everyday life and work of the Orbetello fishing community. His pictures are haunting, portraying respect and harmony with nature. In the mornings, he sets out with 11 of the 58 fishermen and documents their ways of working.
The fishermen spend their mornings fishing and process the catch during the day, with focus on their famous roe specialty “Bottarga”. In the evenings, they serve the fruits of their labor in their restaurant, along with a story. Served by the same men who caught the fish the same morning, guests gain firsthand knowledge about their dinner.
Bencini’s emotional involvement in the project is strong. I found this somewhat problematic because certain aspects, such as the image of the passionate and melancholic seaman appear glorified and romanticized, almost becoming clichés. There is an overriding sense of nostalgia while speaking of the ‘old times’ making some parts redundant. The focus on the nostalgic fishermen almost clouds the more relevant element of the story.
What is relevant? The fishermen from Orbetello are not only romantic dreamers, but also entrepreneurs who, with the aid of Slow Food Italy, reinvent their role as fishermen and independent sellers, promoting sustainability without polluting the water and killing the small fishes they catch along the way.
The entrepreneurial fishermen are stars in setting out and completing a noble mission that is in harmony with the natural world.
We say: Bravi!
Watch the trailer!