B.C. wild salmon are ready for their close-up in Twyla Roscovich’s lively documentary Salmon Confidential, which is being screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival.
It’s a VIFF first for Ms. Roscovich, who has worked as a director and cinematographer for the BBC Natural History and Discovery Channel. In Confidential, she turns her camera on activist biologist Alexandra Morton as she tracks European salmon viruses that have turned up in B.C. wild salmon. The film raises questions about the salmon-farming industry’s role in the situation. Ms. Morton’s Pacific Wild Salmon Society financed the project.
The film has been around, with the pair taking it on the road to about 40 B.C. communities. It takes viewers into rivers and streams to get up close to salmon. Now it has a moment in VIFF’s Canadian Images program. Ms. Roscovich takes The Globe behind the scenes.
If Alex Morton’s society paid for the film, are viewers seeing one side of the story?
I suppose so. But it is from my perspective. It’s not Alex’s perspective. We did try to get interviews with the other side. They often don’t want to talk, probably because of the work I have done in the past – very wild-salmon oriented. This whole issue seems to be split into wild salmon versus salmon farming industries. I am definitely on the side of the wild salmon.
Would this have been a better film if the feds were talking as well as the industry?
I would love to have gotten interviews with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and industry.
Did you reach out to industry?
Oh yeah. I did and I did get a few government scientists on camera (at hearings of the Cohen commission), a few of the bureaucrats. I think their body language speaks volumes. That’s the power of this documentary. We have to be a bit sneaky getting footage of these guys because I can’t get interviews with them.
What was it like getting up close to shoot salmon?
It’s really fun to get underwater and get great images of salmon. They’re really lively and dynamic and the sockeye are extremely colourful. Wherever they go, they infuse it with energy. When you walk into a watershed that’s full of salmon, it’s full of sounds. It’s the cacophony of bird calls and animals.
Is VIFF important for this film?
We’re really happy VIFF is showing it. We want people to know they need to start standing up for the public resource that is wild salmon, or we’re going to lose it. That’s the big message we want to get out, and VIFF helping us by displaying the film is wonderful.
Are you coming to VIFF?
I can’t make it. I am out in the field up the coast working on more films. The research is ongoing. We’ll be doing little sequels to Salmon Confidential. It’s painful to miss it.
I was really looking forward to it, especially because we want to keep this work ongoing. I was kind of hoping to pitch that to some of the industry professionals there at the festival. We will just have to figure out another way.
What documentary film has had the most impact on you as a filmmaker?
The Corporation. It’s one of the most important films to be made in the last few decades. It’s what we’re dealing with in Salmon Confidential. It’s the power corporations have over our governments. If science doesn’t matter, and we don’t have our government agencies regulating corporations, we’re in big trouble.
What film has had the most impact on your technical skills as a filmmaker?
I don’t think I am really great technically as a filmmaker. The power of my films just comes from the power of the coast. I’m just a girl with a camera and a Mac. I haven’t had a lot of time to watch a lot of films. I really should watch a lot of other films. It would probably help me a lot. I do watch [Michael Moore’s] pieces from time to time and see how he puts things together. He’s doing something similar in terms of just running around with a camera and trying to catch bureaucrats on tape and reveal what’s going on.
What’s your favourite film?
I think it’s Never Cry Wolf. It’s based on a Farley Mowat book. It just touches into the beauty of the land and local characters.
Do you have any ambitions to do a dramatic film or any dramatic projects?
No. I am pretty much just a girl with a camera on a sailboat. I will be for many decades to come.