December 14, 2009
Carlos Velo and Fernando G. Mantilla's quietly observed documentary, Almadrabas loosely prefigures Agnès Varda's La Pointe courte in capturing the rhythm and rituals of a small fishing village. Ostensibly titled after the Moorish word describing the structure of nets, the film follows the product cycle of canned tuna - from the fishermen who go out to sea to trawl the ocean, to the fishmongers who clean and dress the fish for curing and sale, to the cannery workers who cook, season, and package them in tins for export. As the title suggests, Almadrabas also illustrates the interconnectedness of the village, both as a close knit community and as workers contributing to the town's primary industry. In a way, Velo and Mantilla's idiosyncratic use of amplified ambient sounds, most notably in the cadence of water droplets and the undifferentiated white noise of machinery, anticipates Ritwik Ghatak's use of allusive sounds as a reflection of internal states. However, rather than imposing a psychological framework, Velo and Mantilla allude to an integrally sociopolitical context in their juxtaposition of village life and commerce, figuratively aligning the circumstances of the villagers with those of the hapless fish captured in their highly efficient nets, destined to feed the insatiable appetites of an anonymous, consumer-driven global economy.