‘Oyster’, a feature documentary by Australian filmmaker Kim Beamish, explores the impact of climate change on a second generation oyster farming family on the south coast of New South Wales.
After more than four decades of farming Sydney rock oysters, the family farm is starting to be handed to the next generation. New ideas have been brought into the family business by bringing new technology to the farming process, but the challenges the new farmer faces are mounting, for both him and his young family.
Oysters have long been messengers from the sea. Bivalve molluscs - two shelled invertebrate - grip inlets and tributaries up and down the coasts of Australia, but their immune systems are fragile and their living environment fraught. They are the canary in the coal mine. As the temperatures of the world’s oceans rise and diseases previously not a problem destroy thousands of oysters and ruin crops, now more than ever these oysters are under threat.
I have known this family my entire life and over the years heard stories of drought and tough times as they struggled to deal with what nature threw at them. Yet these were also tales of resilience, improvisation and dedication, of a farming family getting on with it.
Over the three years it takes to harvest a crop of Sydney rock oysters, ‘Oyster’ will document not only the oysters as they mature and make their way to the restaurants of the big cities, but also the lives of those involved in their production. These are people at the forefront of climate change, people whose lives are impacted the most by a changing planet.
‘Oyster’ will draw inspiration from films such as ‘Leviathan’, with its use of actuality to show the workings of a fishing trawler and its catch, ‘Darwin’s Nightmare’, which shows the effects of ecological disaster on the fishing communities of Tanzania and HBO’s television series ‘Deadliest Catch’ whose observational style brings us up close and personal with the crabbing crews of Alaska’s Barring Strait. As an observational film, ‘Oyster’ will let nature play out in front of the camera, following both the oysters and those that farm them.
Climate change is real, regardless of who is to blame or what is making it happen. The effects are impacting communities worldwide from small pacific islands forced to evacuate, to cities like New York shut down by ice and snow. ‘Oyster’ offers an opportunity to glimpse some of the effects firsthand through a family and community whose daily routines are dictated by weather and what nature decides.
Oyster’ is set in a small coastal village, but the issues with which it deals - climate change, sustainability, community - are global.