Just seeing steady hands place delicate, fresh pink Salmon onto small saucers in the opening sequence of Sushi: The Global Catch, I prepared myself for a documentary that would be a mouth-watering cascade of pristine sushi footage and perhaps some testimonies from some great sushi chefs. I was happy to see that Sushi is a very good looking documentary that does have many images of immaculate sushi dishes being plated (bring your bib because you will be drooling). But, quite possibly the most fascinating thing about Sushi is that by the end of this documentary which actually breaks down the sushi industry’s triumphs and hazards like a swift knife expertly dissecting a 450 Kg Bluefin. You’re likely to be running out to make a donation to Greenpeace, instead of going on a hazy eyed Tuna binge.
Sushi takes us on a layered journey starting at the place where this sacred and highly skilled industry began: Tokyo. First time feature length documentary director Mark Hall puts us face to face with some of the world’s most renowned Japanese sushi chefs like Michelin starred Mamoru Sugiyama and Master Chef contestant Tyson Cole to hear testimonies of the incredible patience and talent that the now globally booming industry business necessitates.
Sushi goes into detail about and the tools of the trade: Japanese steel, heavenly cuts of Tuna, and preparation processes and it is because of this that this documentary tantalizes the inner foodie in us all. Still, just hearing Master how becoming a traditionally trained Sushi chef takes at least 2 years of initial training (training focused completely on how to make rice properly), makes any viewer (sushi aficionado or novice) incredibly aware of the extreme sense of conviction and determination that this culinary art form demands from its practitioners.
But where Sushi starts to get really fun is when Hall takes us to the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo: the largest fish market in the world. Here, Hall gives us a fly on the wall perspective of the grand business behind sushi and the fish that fuels this business: Tuna. While we get testimony from fish mongers quality inspectors, but it’s undoubtedly the testimony of Alistair Douglas that speaks the loudest. Douglas, managing director of Seafood Services Japan, gives the run down on the Tuna industry from supplier, middleman, to buyer. Once he gets into the nitty gritty of how the Bluefin Tuna’s species has declined to about 10% of its worldwide population since the 1970’s, the unsustainable nature of sushi is totally alarming.
Hall’s focus often shifts between Tuna farmers, buyers, marine biologists, and even Greenpeace to get the low down the colossal damage that we’ve done to the ocean’s ecosystem, and how the Bluefin Tuna – a fish that’s on the top of the food chain and is virtually untouchable in its natural habitat – is facing near extinction because of the global demand for sushi. As a documentary, Sushi: The Global Catch is informative, insightful, and visually enthralling, but the most compelling aspect of Sushi is that Hall’s layered approach to this now centuries old cuisine captures the all-out commitment that those who truly appreciate sushi have put forth in order to preserve its culture.