“Ghost Fleet”- the echo of Thai slavery in the fishing industry in the corner of Washington, D.C.

Written by Chalefun Ditphudee

I come so far away from home to listening to the voices of my people louder than usual. This must be something called the excellent collaboration between perfect timing and opportunities.

The first day as the fellow at the Center for Environmental Filmmaking, Pinarsita Juliana, the Indonesian filmmaker and I attained Film Across Borders: Stories of Water film screening event at American University School of Communication. It was the most notable coincidence because the film content was related to both of our countries. This was an enormous surprise that AU provided us to soaking with this experience.

It seems like they know we are here for some seasons…

One of the missions of Labour Protection Network (LPN)
is to bring illegal fishery force labour back home.
Credit: Ghost Fleet documentary film trailers
One of those forced labours expressed his feeling in the Ghost Fleet.
Credit: Ghost Fleet documentary film trailers

“Ghost Fleet” was screening at the Malsi Doyle and Michael Forman Theater on October 22, 2019. The story is about the injustice of slavery in the Thai fishing industry. When they get on the boat and offshore, the men may never return to the land – unless they escape. These boats work the islands of Indonesia and Thailand, but also off the coasts of West Africa and Europe. The story captures how Labour Protection Network (LPN), Thai NGO, searching for the men in the Indonesian islands and help them to go back to the homeland.

I have heard about the Ghost Fleet documentary film for a while but had never had a chance to watch it. It was screened in Bangkok, Thailand a couple times in the private screening event. Therefore, there are not many Thai audiences have watched this film. But this is a great opportunity to watch it with the global audiences who are so enthusiastic about being part of problem-solving. Even this problem occurs in Thailand, but Thailand supplies a large portion of America’s seafood. So, the film tries to engage with global audiences by asking a question,

“Next time you order a fish in a restaurant or buy it from a freezer at your local shop, ask yourself, who caught this fish?”

The panel discussion featured Jon Bowermaster, producer and Mercedes García Pérez, Head of Global Issues & Innovation, Delegation of the European Union to the U.S. It was moderated by Maggie Burnette Stogner, executive director,
Center for Environmental Filmmaking.

I found that many times after the screening, people feel the mission is completed then they just walk away and ignore Q&A session. Personally, I think it is the most crucial session to get a better understanding of the film that we have watched. As I observed this Q&A session, again, I found that there were so many fruitful questions from audiences. This was such an incredible moment. There are so many people in this world who care not only themselves but also care about social problems, environment and human rights issues.

My favourite question was, why did not the film mention the name of fishery company?

The answer from Jon Bowermaster, producer, was so impressed. He said,

“This film is created for questioning and seeking for the best practice to solve illegal fishery and forced labour problems. We raise a point because we want to encourage business sectors in the fishery industry to treat the workers better. We hope it can be changed. So, we need to work in collaboration, not to stigmatize and make them feel ashamed.”

Jon Bowermaster, the producer of Ghost Fleet documentary film

In my opinion, the film can be used as a bridge to connect people from different points of view to come across problems together. We can learn what the best way to be balanced is.

“Let’s win together.” I interpreted the message that “Ghost Fleet” trying to say.

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