Just seeing steady hands place delicate, fresh pink Salmon on 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 looking sushi dishes being plated (bring your bib because you will be drooling). Quite possibly the most fascinating thing about Sushi is that by the end of this documentary which breaks down the sushi industry’s triumphs and hazards like a swift knife expertly dissecting a 450 Kg Bluefin Tuna, you’re likely to be running out to donate money to Greenpeace instead of a hazy eyed Tuna binge at Sushi on Bloor.
Sushi takes us on a layered journey starting at the place where this sacred and highly skilled industry began: Tokyo Japan. 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 sushi Master Chef Mamoru Sugiyama, sushi Master Chef Yashuru Iida, and even Sarasota, Florida native and Master Chef contestant Tyson Cole to hear testimonies of the incredible patience and talent that the now globally booming sushi 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 Chef Iida explain that in order to become a traditionally trained Sushi chef takes at least 2 years of initial training- 2 years completely focused on how to make rice properly that is- we become incredibly aware of the extreme sense of conviction and determination that this culinary art form demands from its practitioners.
I’m sure I’m just one of the millions of people out there who eats sushi all the time and only thought Wasabi was there to add a horseradishy kick to each bite, and learning even simple facts like that Wasabi was initially implemented into sushi dishes in order to kill dangerous bacteria in the days before proper sanitation was available, is profoundly revelatory. Sushi makes us aware of just how distanced North Americans, one of the first nations foreign to Japan to majorly endorse sushi culture, are from the facts that form the very foundation of a cuisine that is now high on our lists of go-to pig out food.
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 trade: Tuna. Still, 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 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 fish farmers, buyers, marine biologists, and even Greenpeace activists to get the low down the colossal damage that we’ve done to the ocean’s ecosystem because of the global demand for sushi. As a documentary, Sushi: The Global Catch is informative, insightful, and visually enthralling. I mean being able to see the Bluefin glide through the ocean and get sliced apart is remarkable. But still, 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.