Ghost Fleet

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Patima Tungpuchayakul has, to her great credit, made it her mission to find and rescue the thousands of men essentially kidnapped and enslaved by the Thai fishing industry. “Essentially” is a necessary qualifier here, because how exactly the men wind up on the boats — where they are trapped and brutally mistreated for years — isn’t made entirely clear. That gets at the main problem with Shannon Service and Jeffrey Waldron’s documentary: alas, it’s another heroic and remarkable story undone by muddled and middling moviemaking. Too many travel shots, too many seascapes, too many glimpsed re-creations, too many sustained looks at the haunted faces and wounded bodies of those who suffer, and too much aimless time spent with those who seek to ease that suffering. As a result, not nearly enough information about the crisis or Patima’s work: besides the question of how the slaves were taken, the viewer is left wondering how they escaped service, how they were found, and how they were rescued. How Patima built and runs her organization. How the industry has responded. How, how, how. It’s possible that these things that can’t be discussed without undermining her group’s noble efforts, and in that case, the silence is understandable. But it doesn’t make the film any more satisfying. (2018) — Matthew Lickona

Rated NR | 1 hour, 30 minutes
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