The 2018 Toronto International Film Festival is presenting the international premiere of Shannon Service and Jeffrey Waldron’s feature-length documentary Ghost Fleet via its TIFF Docs category.
The 90-minute film, which first screened at the Canadian festival on Saturday (Sept. 8), pulls the curtain back to examine slavery in the Thai seafood and fishing industries.
Produced by Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Productions and Seahorse Productions, Ghost Fleet follows a small group of activists – led by Thai abolitionist Patima Tungpuchayakul – who risk their lives on remote Indonesian islands for the freedom of enslaved fishermen.
With decimated stocks in the Gulf of Thailand, boating captains now scramble to fill their ships with crew willing to travel thousands of miles to find fish. Fishing companies have turned to human traffickers to fill the labor shortage by selling men from Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and other impoverished nations. Once at sea, captive men go months, even years, without setting foot on land and earning little to no pay.
“There are a lot of reasons why this particular film is important to make,” Service tells realscreen. “I first broke the story to NPR in 2012, and while a lot of people think slavery at sea is something out of the 19th century—slavery at sea is still very much a modern day issue.
“The film also links environmental degradation with human rights in a direct way,” the director continues. “Instead of better labor practices, unscrupulous captains now buy men off human trafficking gangs and then, with slaves on board, they’re free to roam the globe stealing fish from other countries. When they steal fish from nations like Indonesia or Somalia, they set off another chain reaction of both environmental and social chaos. This becomes important to realize that issues that may seem isolated -human rights and overfishing—- are very much intertwined.”
The film is represented by Endeavor Content, a division of Endeavor (formerly WME | IMG ). It enjoyed its world premiere at the 2018 Telluride Film Festival.
Executive producers on the film include Paul G. Allen, Carole Tomko, Rocky Collins, Jannat Gargi, Geralyn Dreyfous, Shannon O’Leary Joy, Julia Ormond and Shari Sant Plummer, with co-exec producer T.C. Johnstone.
Jon Bowermaster is producer alongside Service. Greg Kwedar, Louie Psihoyos and Aimee Link are co-producers.
- Ghost Fleet next screens today (Sept. 10) at 2 p.m. ET and Saturday at 9:15 a.m. ET at the Scotiabank Theatre.