Ever since I read Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm by Erin Byers Murray, I've daydreamed about running away to work on an oyster farm. Pushing myself physically and mentally surrounded by what I love - oysters and the water - it's my happy place.
So it's not surprising that when I watched Oyster Farming in a Changing World, a feature documentary about the 160-year-old oyster farming industry in Willapa Bay, Wash., I got taken to church. Halleluia. (I was also reminded how damn hard it is to get an oyster from babyhood to your restaurant plate. Three bucks an oyster is a bargain. No complaints.)
Anyway, back to the movie. Keith A. Cox, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker, is the writer, director, cameraman, editor and marketing department for this incredible film that you simply have to see. I've watched other oyster documentaries, but what makes this one special is that Keith gets it. He gets the heart. He gets the grit. He gets the determination. Most importantly, he gets the pure joy of oyster farmers. He lets the oystermen and women tell their own stories:
"The work is hard. The hours are long. But the life it makes for you is unequaled," says one. Says another, "It's a life I chose." How many of us can really say that?
A LABOR OF LOVE
Keith spent FOUR YEARS capturing the people, places and history in Willapa Bay, where Keith was born and raised. Keith tells us that this project was an opportunity to give back to the community that raised him. He comes from a newspaper family that spent their lives recording and preserving the area history. Oyster Farming in a Changing World is Keith's way to continue his family legacy and preserve Willapa Bay's history.
The official project description:
!!!!!!BIG NEWS: Keith just let us know that from now until the end of the year, you can watch the movie FOR FREE. Here's the link: https://vimeo.com/77769466. Pop some corn, get comfy, and get inspired.!!!!!!!!
BORN IN JAPAN, RAISED IN THE STATES
Because producing a beautiful feature length film wasn't enough, Keith also used the footage to create several shorter documentaries. "Importing Japanese Seed" is one of those films close to Keith's heart "because all the old films used in this doc, were old family films I tracked down and had transferred to video as a chance to preserve the history of the films, and to tell this historically significant story," he recalls.
Starting in the late 1930s and continuing for decades, Pacific oyster spat were imported to Willipa Bay from Matshushima Bay, Japan, in old wooden crates previously used to store sake. The crates, packed to the brim with baby oysters, were stacked jenga style on cargo boats. Twice a day, the baby oysters were sprayed with ocean water to keep them alive during the two-week journey across the Pacific. Here's their story:
A LOOK BEHIND THE CURTAIN
Cox shows the Willipa Bay oyster industry from every angle, including underwater. Here's raw footage of his underwater cam capturing the dredging process. Super cool. (I'm such an oyster nerd.)
HARD SELL. BUY IT. BUY IT!
I can't say enough about this movie. Treat yourself. The Willipa Bay Oysters Preservation Edition DVD includes the featured movie, a 7-episode series titled "Willapa Bay Oysters," more than five hours of extra footage, interviews with oystermen, and a 50-page book full of photographs.
As a special bonus to the readers of Oyster Stew, Keith Cox will autograph the DVD set box. In the comments field of Paypal, just tell him that Oyster Stew sent you and let him know who you would like the DVD set to be dedicated to. Christmas present!!! Thanks Keith!
"Preservation Edition" Blu-ray+DVD+Book from Stony Point Pictures on Vimeo.
ONE MORE THING ...
The end of the movie is inspiring. I promise you'll want to jump ship and run away to your own oyster farm. It concludes with an original song called "This is Where I Belong," written and produced by Larry Marciano. It's lovely. I just added it to my iPod. Download the song at iTunes.