DER Documentary

Last Season - Portrait of a Trawler

launch preview watch a preview

by Oren Bendavid-Val
color, 28 min, 2006

NEW! Institutional Streaming Options:

I have read and agree to the Terms & Conditions

Non-profit, K-12, and Individual pricing also available
See pricing information and conditions

Last Season is a portrait of the ground fish trawler Isabel S. from New Bedford, MA. Jeff, the captain, learned fishing from his father, local legend 'Fearless Freddy' Hatfield. Brian, the cook, is a biker and a recovering alcoholic. Lo, the deckhand, is a refugee from Vietnam who has rediscovered Buddhism.

We accompany them to the once-ample fishing areas of Georges Bank and the Nantucket Shoals, where they haul in nets, and do the backbreaking and bloody work of hand-cutting thousands of pounds of cod and other fish on a pitching trawl deck.

The boat is revealed as a social microcosm. Captain Jeff, the son of an esteemed local captain, is at the top of the order, and Lo, who arrived in the U.S. after a harrowing escape from a Viet Cong jail, is at the bottom.

Fishing is a complicated and sometimes deadly business. Detailed knowledge of the ocean floor and the habits of fish is crucial to success. But, as Captain Jeff acknowledges as the Isabel S. returns with its catch, "Sometimes a lot of it is a little luck".

"[Last Season] is impressive and the idea behind it significant because it gives a viewpoint from the fishermen's perspective on fishing. I am sure ... it will contribute much to improving fishery management.” — Brian J. Rothschild, Dean, University of Massachusetts
"...These men are in the midst of important and dramatic lives, and Mr. Bendavid-Val very skillfully makes those lives part of our own. He must have done some lengthy preliminary work on this boat because they speak to him with trust, honesty, and candor. And they begin a story that promises both depth and beauty... Mr. Bendavid-Val is offering us men's lives... at a time when their destinies pertain not just to their immediate families and communities, but to perplexities confronting both this nation and the world.” — Richard Adams Carey, author of Against the Tide: The Fate of the New England Fisherman
“Bendavid-Val's filming aboard the Isabel S. would be make for a good discussion in an anthropology of film course.” — Thomas Stevenson, Anthropology Review Database

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Voices of the Waters Festival, Bangalore, India, 2007
Summer Screenings, Somerville Community Access Television, MA, 2007
Green Wave 21st Century European Environment Festival, Bulgaria, 2007
Roshd International Film Festival, Iran, 2007

Related Films
China Coast Fishing
Fish Is Our Life
Fishers of Dar
Sharing Paradise
The Water Talks to Me

Catalog of New Films DER new films catalog cover
Join Our Mailing List
Suport DER
Supported By Massachusetts Cultural Council National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Arts