Controversial new film comes to Oban

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Fisherman Sean Massie walks down to help launch Ythan Lass on West Murkle Beach.

A controversial new film documenting a tense summer for Scotland’s last family of traditional salmon netters is showing at Oban Phoenix Cinema on Saturday, September 7, and Wednesday September 11.

Of Fish and Foe follows brothers Kevin and John Pullar, from Angus, as they find themselves a target for activists, conservationists, anglers and river owners in this stirring and often surprising look at contemporary eco-activism on the Scottish Seas.

The Pullar family have been fishing for salmon along the north and east coasts of Scotland for generations. However, animal and conservation activists have declared war on the fishermen because they shoot seals if they steal salmon from their nets.

The river owners and the anglers have also joined the fracas because they want the net fisherman out of the way so more valuable salmon will come up the rivers, offering a prize haul to those sportsmen able to pay for the privilege.

‘We are one of the most hated families in Scotland,’ says John Pullar.

‘How would you like to be constantly followed by masked activists, filming your every move although you’re doing nothing wrong?’ adds his brother Kevin.

The film, a Scotland-shot feature documentary by Andy Heathcote and Heike Bachelier’s, is told over a single summer in a tense 90 minutes of confrontation as the family try to hold out against impossible odds.

‘We had always found the traditional way of net fishing for salmon very beautiful but we also knew it was very controversial, say the Fife-based co-directors.

‘In 2015 the last of Scotland’s remaining salmon fishermen were coming under attack from all sides, including from direct action environmental groups.

‘We questioned how much longer this way of life could survive. But we also wondered if the fishermen really were as bad as their enemies made out. Things didn’t make sense and so we decided to find out more.

‘What happened next came as a total surprise and little did we realise it would be the final season for a tradition going back to the Vikings.

‘We want audiences to approach the film with an open mind. We hope the film shows how things are often not black and white. Environment, conservation, traditions and cultures are all intertwined but when they collide it can, and did, get messy. And did the right one win? That’s for the audience to decide.’

Of Fish and Foe’s cinema tour is supported by Screen Scotland and The National Lottery through Creative Scotland.