15th Oct2013

‘Raw Herring’ at the Tribeca Film Festival

by Catherina Gioino

A documentary from the Netherlands outlines the journey of fishermen as they continue to fish and live life in a long lost profession. The Hollandse Niewe, or commonly referred to as the Dutch New Herring, is a type of fish that is found in the region and is known to be a cultural tradition to feast on. The problem? As beloved as the fish are, the number of ships have diminished to just two as the passion for fishing has left with the new generation.

Director Hetty Naaijkens-Retel Helmrich spoke to us about the film and what problems she and her co-director, Leonard Retel Helmrich, had to deal with while filming the documentary. Having won the 2004 Martha Bering Award for Dutch Women in Film and Media, Hetty Helmrich has gone on to be a cultural icon for all women everywhere as well as win several other awards for previous documentaries she also filmed.

Raw Herring follows the story of a number of Dutch fisherman as they travel the treacherous rough seas of the Netherlands to catch raw herring, a famous treat in the Netherlands. The Helmriches use an amazing form of cinematography as they allow the audience to feel exactly what the fishermen feel and even more. The audience is able to smell the morning air as we see the beautiful morning dawn and the night closing in at duck.

What I found most amusing was the fact Raw Herring followed not only the fishermen and their everyday lives, but also the lives of the children of the fisherman, who sometimes accompanied their fathers along the boat rides. The film, in Dutch with English subtitles, amazingly follows the stories of several fisherman as they face the day’s challenges and the cold air, and even their children as they go to school and interact with children of their own age.

Hetty Helmrich goes on to say that they were interested in how the fisherman acted and lived, and how one of their favorite foods came to be. “I love it,” Hetty exclaims as she motions eating the fish. “It was my idea [to film the children]. I wanted to film them because they are innocent and they love their fathers .” Hetty even stated that it was hard to film their school days as they had stories of past relatives who have even died at sea.

Raw Herring is an entertaining story of how the herring are caught and prepared for consumption and the fishermen live their lives. You can watch part of our interview with director Hetty Naaijkens-Retel Helmrich below:


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