Fishermen's Conversation

A movie by Chiara Bove Machiedo

Fishermen’s Conversations is an imaginary dialogue between the director Chiara Bove Makiedo, and her Croatian Grandfather Sergije Makiedo, who spent part of his life on the Dalmatian island of Hvar and died just before the outbreak of the Yugoslav war.

The film was motivated by a desire to connect with the Grandfather she never met; a formidable character and former partisan turned Navy captain, turned judge, turned Yugoslav ambassador for the United Nations. But most of all turned fisherman of Hvar. It opens with Chiara looking through photographs of the family from decades before, inciting her to embark upon a journey to get to know the fishermen of Hvar as a means of getting to know her Grandfather and to create a piece which immortalizes the fishermen’s routines and lifestyle forever.

Hvar has always relied on a healthy balance of fishing, agriculture and tourism to sustain its economy. Yet the balance has been dramatically toppled over recent years as some have cashed in on mass tourism, packing the island beyond its capacity over the summer, making life increasingly difficult for the fishermen and locals. The story is the same for many towns-turned-resorts and their inhabitants all over the world.

This film tells the story through spending time with and observing the tourists and the fishermen going about their ways. The focus is on 3 groups of fishermen, Šime Lovrinčević (52) a post- graduate turned fishermen, the Bibić family who’s crew members age from 8 up to 76 and lastly, Stipe Tasina (48) and Stanko Tudor (45) who’s sense of humour and good mood never cease, all of whom use different fishing techniques and who’s days out at sea and lives carried out in different ways.

Šime Lovrinčević (52) is a solitary character who during summer lives on the bay of Dubovica with his family. Just after the war, out of all the career paths he could have taken, Šime chose to become a fisherman and run a ramshackle family restaurant on the bay’s beach. There he cooks and sells fresh fish caught directly from his boat. Šime is also our direct link to the traditions of the island that come back when the tourists disappear once summer is over. It is in these harsher times for the economy that life on the island goes back to what it used to be.

From Šime, who uses a relatively ‘modern’ approach to fishing, we transition to a very different and much more traditional family: the Bibić and crew.

Images of Šime and the Bibić family are intercut with images of drunk and high tourists getting ferried to and from raves on the smaller islands around Hvar. As they come back to the harbour in the early hours, by now carpeted with empty and smashed cans and glass bottles, the Bibić family wait to group up to take to the seas for a day at work.

The Bibic family has two very different ‘leaders’; Markica and Tonći. Markica Bibić has an ethereal, dreamlike aura to him, and looks like an iconic depiction of Jesus Christ, whilst Tonći Bibić is a heavy built, authoritative chain-smoker, constantly barking orders at his crew to ensure a good and steady work flow.

They are one of the last remaining families in Hvar who practice the traditional fishing called Tramata. They doubt that their offspring will continue their trade, as their children will have look to do something different or go off to study on the mainland. Yet over the summer, three generations of Bibić unite on two century-old wooden boats and fish together, using just their hands and their nets.

The last boat we board, as we transition into winter, is that of Stipe Tasina, one of Šime’s closest friends. Here we also meet his employee Stanko Tudor, who works for Šime in the summer and for Stipe during the winter. Throughout this long tempestuous day, we discover the widely-criticized ‘trawling’ method. Despite the criticism, both Stipe and Stanko maintain a consistent vivacity throughout the duration of this entire journey, transforming this ‘less glorifying’ way of fishing into a slightly more animated experience…

We learn that that only 10% of their catch is sold locally, while 90% is packed in ice and sold on to Italy; whereas in summer, most of the catch is sold on to restaurants and on board of Stipe's boat trips for the seasonal tourists, who are able to witness the process and have the opportunity to enjoy a meal with the day’s catch; the “Fish Picnic”. This last journey focuses entirely on portraying how a slightly more modern approach to fishing is almost inevitable to keep up with today’s standards and how a group of men’s ability to use one another’s company, allows them to get through the day.

Chiara’s Grandfather never knew the island as Croatian, only as Austro-Hungarian and then Yugoslav, a national identity he had fought for, motivated by a set ideologies that may or may not have turned out to been flawed.

The island of Hvar now evidences what has become of a place so emblematic of everything he fought to resist and to uphold. Do the conservation efforts of the fishermen, through simply replicating and upholding the practice of their forefathers, keep these values alive? Or are these fishing trips among the Hvar’s last, before the island changes forever?