SIFF 2019: The Wild

The Wild asks us what we will do to fight for what we love. For director Mark Titus, his love of wild salmon is abundantly clear. It runs deep in his bones and his passion comes out as exuberant poetry, seeking solutions and salvation for a fish population facing endangerment. In the Pacific Northwest, we view fish differently – through the mythical lens of their extraordinary longevity on earth. They have survived all manner of natural phenomenon: from ice ages to overfishing, but humanity continues to offer further threats to their livelihood. Due to moves by the current administration, salmon sanctuaries have been pitted against the environmental impact of reckless politicizing, landing a copper mine right above the world’s greatest salmon run in Bristol Bay, Alaska.

The impacts are clear. As a Pacific Nortwestern focused outlet, we understand the very dire costs inherently. Salmon are a cornerstone of our region’s cuisine. They are the culinary raison d’être of the Pacific Northwest. Bristol Bay feeds all the world with their salmon. Over 137 different creatures eat the salmon. They provide sustenance to an entire ecological system. The Trump administration is unsympathetic to these facts and are more willing to play ball for a single new mining operation that impacts our region’s favorite food source.

The Wild. Dir. Mark Titus.

Mark Titus has an emotional connection to the work. He worked in Alaska’s fishing industry for many years and understands the nature of the issue, the pressing need for preservation. The beginning and ending of the film unfold with his poetry on the matter. It intertwines his personal recovery from alcohol with what you can imagine provides him immense spirituality in recovery. It shows when he tours the Ballard Locks and looks over the salmon run with his niece. When he says the current administration also caused him to seek recovery, we believe him. This critic got into recovery within that same month Trump got into office. Trump must have adversely inspired so many of us toward sobriety.

The Wild does not always connect the poetry and personal meaning to its subjects. We know it’s there because the author tells us so. It would provoke further meaning and insight to feel the why of the situation. It is deeply felt anyway in the sense of the rallying art that unfolds. The documentary collects many worthwhile speakers, from great Northwest chef Tom Douglas to heartfelt community members of Bristol Bay. It’s made abundantly clear that the previous administration offered protections on the community for valid and sensible reasons. That we must act now to save the salmon. Following on Titus’s first film, The Breach (2014), which suggests the problem, The Wild is a worthwhile follow-up that is alarming and urgent.


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