Against the Tide

Against the Tide

India | 2023 | 97 min. | Sarvnik Kaur

Winner of the Sundance 2023 Vérité Filmmaking Prize, this captivating documentary on class, climate change, and overfishing explores the lives of two contrasting, Indigenous fishermen who were born to the same caste whose friendship fractures.

The Koli caste of coastal India have been fishers for centuries, and we meet two of them in Sarvnik Kaur's documentary, which offers the gradually intensifying drama and emotional intimacy of fiction. Best friends Rakesh and Ganesh both grew up in the caste, both entered their traditional profession, and both are struggling to provide for their young families—but in other crucial ways are as different as can be. Rakesh is poor; Ganesh could afford to go to school abroad. Rakesh uses his father's rickety boat and navigates by the moon and the tides; Ganesh has a power boat and prefers newer, innovative methods, like shining LED lights into the water to lure fish at night. Tension builds between the friends; how could it not, whenever tradition and modernity clash? They do face common villains, though: the obstacle of government bureaucracy (night fishing is illegal), plastic ocean garbage, high-tech Chinese fishing fleets, an overpopulation of jellyfish, and, most ominous of all, depleted fish stocks due to climate change. Kaur's film, which won a Special Jury prize at Sundance, provides a probing and poignant look at an age-old but inevitably waning way of life.

Gavin Borchert

  • Director: Sarvnik Kaur
  • Country: India, France
  • Year: 2023
  • Running Time: 97 min.
  • Producer: Koval Bhatia, Sarvnik Kaur
  • Screenplay: Sarvnik Kaur
  • Cinematographers: Ashok Meena
  • Editors: Atanas Georgiev, Blagoja Nedelkovski
  • Music: Igor Vasilev Novogradska
  • Website: Official Film Website
  • Awards: Sundance Film Festival 2023 (World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Vérité Filmmaking)
  • Filmography: A Ballad of Maladies (2016)
  • Language: Koli, Marathi, Hindi
  • Has Subtitles: Yes
  • International Sales: Deckert Distribution GmbH