Podcast 10: Fishers of Men

Welcome back to MOAS. In this episode we’re taking you to the screening of ‘Fishers Of Men’, the documentary charting MOAS’s beginnings and ongoing mission. You can watch the documentary online here. Please be advised that some of the audio in the following podcast may be distressing to some listeners.

This is the first time the film has gone in front of a large audience, as part of the Valletta Film Festival.

Let’s drop you into Piazza San Gorg Valletta… the film has just started. 

… “Every person has a right to their opinion and I respect that.  I respect that people are afraid, afraid of another culture impeding on theirs, their values, their morals, a different religion coming up.  But migration does affect people, it does affect society, it will affect your culture, the way of life for your children and your grandchildren and I think that the only time that ‘normal’ people I guess so to speak start to recognize that is when it directly affects them but what about the other person and do you care about that person?”

The 75 minute documentary was made by an in house team of creatives. Zane Dedlow is its editor.

Zane:  I think the feeling is sort of overwhelming because you’ve been living with this story for a very long time, especially when this story is a human story and it’s about people, and it’s about the search for a better life, and being involved in trying to portray a story like that and trying to get behind a story like that and to produce the best results possible to do change, because that’s what film is about, it’s about change. The feeling now to have people watch the film is a good feeling, and while the content matter is not ‘good’ content, it’s good now to finally get the story out there so people can potentially do something about it.

… “Everybody sit down, stay where you are, do not move OK… Rubber boats are easily manufactured I think that’s the difference mainly. They’re more available. The smugglers can’t get as many people, they can get between 100 and 150 people on board these kind of handmade rubber dinghies which are made from very cheap plastic and they usually put a 25 horsepower two stroke engine on the back of it that would barely push anything. So they would go a couple of nautical miles and eventually after 8 hours they would get out into international waters.”

How important is setting the tone with a film like this?

Zane:  Setting the tone with an audience is the most important part when making a film because it’s tricky because you’ve got to balance … you’re representing human beings at the end of the day, you’re representing a crisis, you’re representing something real, something that’s happening out there. And we mustn’t forget that society is divided between left and right, that’s how I can put it in the basic terms, we’ve got left people and we’ve got right people, so to set a tone for a film I’ve got to reach all those people. So the tone has to be true to what’s happening.

Now, with this film it was very easy to set the tone because the tone is human stories and it’s not about having to make something bigger or foster or anything it was just about showing real life, so setting the realism within the film. Letting, for example, the rescue sequences, I let them play out because I wanted the audience to watch what was happening, not just some quick news snippets, it was to let you be there, let that be the tone of the film, let you really be in that moment.

How did you stay emotionally detached?

Zane: Of course it’s very difficult because my life became about watching all of the footage and that became day-in-day-out, and trying to separate my emotions from it was hard because I’m a human being at the end of the day, so when I saw something shocking, when I saw something that upset me, my emotions just came out and I couldn’t help it. But what that said to me was that’s why I’m making this film, because I want that emotion to come out within the film so it was hard to detach. But I don’t think especially with making a documentary that you want to detach, because it’s that feeling inside you, that emotion that drives you to want to make change with a film like this, to want to show that emotion that you’re feeling.

RC: ‘When they are on the boat they are there for two days, three days of breathing, sleeping. It’s a big reward because we know that we achieved what we want to let them feel safe.’

What is the lasting message of the film?

Zane:  You see that was the point of the film, right, and it was the hardest point to find within the film because I didn’t want to tell people what to think. I didn’t want to say ‘you must believe in saving people’s lives at sea’.  What I wanted people to feel and go away with was ‘this is the situation, have a look at what is going on’ and that is what Chris and Regina have been trying to say for a long time: ‘look at the situation’. I’m pretty sure as a human being when you actually look at it you can’t help but want to do something, so I was hoping to leave everyone who has watched this film at the end with that feeling like, ‘you can’t ignore the situation you can only take from it and walk away and decide if you care enough to maybe make change.’

After the screening it was time for the audience to meet the people behind MOAS.

This is Joseph Sammut, an Able Bodied-Seaman crewman on the Responder in 2016.

Joseph:  I joined the Topaz Responder in the summer.  I did five months on board, it was a life changing experience to be honest. I have done rescues before, I have done fire and rescue but compared to this there’s nothing like it.  You get to touch human lives, you get to save people, you get to pick up too many dead people from the water.  The people, the world hasn’t seen this film, the world needs to see it, it can’t go on. Thank you, thank you Catrambones.

Audience member:  My daughter-in-law lives in Seattle. This afternoon she placed on my Facebook the publicity for this, I didn’t know it was here so my wife and I came here.  The world should see this documentary I think.  Is there no one here that can help do that, get it to go viral but on the most important TV channels, the world needs to see this.  We owe it to the world. Send a copy to Pope Francis.  Make sure everyone gets to see it, please. Thank you.

Audience member:  Thank you very much for your work, the very important work that you do and thank you very much for making the movie.  I agree with gentleman that it is extremely important that as many people as possible see the movie and learn about your work.  My question is about the news I’ve seen in the last few weeks of people in Europe raising money to do the opposite of what you do to obstruct your work.  Are you afraid for your own safety when you’re doing a rescue when you’re out at sea and are you afraid of some kind of war taking place at sea when other people sadly are not convinced of the value of what you do and are trying to obstruct your work?

Paula Galea:  Thank you that’s a very valid and important question. I don’t think we’re worried because the law is very clear, we abide by the law, everything we do where we take people from beginning to end our operations are by the letter of the law.  What this organization intends to do, they’re saying that they don’t want to let people drown they want to rescue but take them back to Libya.  That is by the letter of the law illegal, Libya is not a safe place to take people back to.  There’s a principal of ‘no refoulement’ which says that you can’t take someone if they’re seeking asylum, you can’t take someone back to a place where they are in danger of being mistreated again and so that concept that they are putting forward is quite frankly illegal, and it’s not up to us it’s up the authorities to handle their operations because we cooperate completely with the authorities.

From my side as a PR and Communications person, all I can say is that I would like you all to raise awareness against this organization and to support organisations like MOAS so we can stay out there, because they’re doing very well playing on fears of people in Europe right now and it’s very easy for them to raise that kind of money, so please spread the word with your friends and family about organisations like ours so that we can keep working.

Now let’s hear what the audience had to say about the documentary’s debut.

Vox 1:  I think the sheer volume and how devastating it is and how unspoken and un-shown the true side of what refugees go through, the human side of what refugees go through.

Vox 2: For me I think it’s just how sick humanity can actually be at times, be it from the causes of what we’re seeing and also the reactions to our rescuing them. The idea that people are opposing the rescues is outrageous first of all, the fact that not more is being done in Syria and internationally and hasn’t been done in the last 10,15, 20 years is ridiculous, it just goes on and on and on.  It’s a bit sometimes like humanity has lost its way.

Vox 3: I think it was really horrific, really affecting, because there was one moment where one dead baby was coming up after the other and one dead child after another, and the dark and the noise and all of that, that’s really a scene that stays with you.

Vox 4: Having watched the film is that the news reports you see migrants coming across, and in the news you never see the dead ones.  The death scenes in this movie is what really impresses you and that is a reality, it’s happening all the time which we don’t see in the news media.  It’s very touching and it also makes a lasting impression that people are dying, and that is what the film puts forward and you walk away with that people are dying all the time the longer we leave it.

Vox 5: What can I do to help I think is the main thing, the last thing is those children, the children. I mean they’re human. It’s not a question of migrants, refugees, it’s human beings, that’s the main thing.

In the next podcast…

By spending enough time we could get a glimpse of the dimension of this crisis but just a glimpse, even the pictures don’t describe the complexity of this crisis or situation but it just gives a clue about it. We were shocked by doing it, we were shocked by collecting all this information.

We’re discussing the dangerous world of human trafficking along one of Africa’s most well known routes.

We’ll be speaking to journalists, academics and organisations documenting the harsh reality, its financial connections and ways to monitor it on the ground.

Until then you can follow us on our social media. Check out our latest updates on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and AudioBoomor you can support our rescue missions by giving whatever you can to help us save lives at sea. From all of us here at MOAS: goodbye.

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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained.

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