The Fishing Boat Potemkin

Imagining a film that uses strategies from Sergei Eisenstein's masterpiece Battleship Potemkin to increase the market for invasive silver and bighead carp.


  1. Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 silent film Battleship Potemkin is known not only for its innovative cinematic techiques, but also for its success as a work of propaganda, supporting Communism in Russia. The objective of this Storify is to examine how Eisenstein's techniques and rhetoric could be applied to a film about a modern issue, specifically, the invasion of silver and bighead carp (collectively "Asian carp") in the United States. The film would aim to persuade its audience of the urgent need to start catching and eating Asian carp for the benifit of American fish and fishermen.
  2. Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 4.50.31 PM
    Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 4.50.31 PM
  3. This is a shot of Vakulinchuk, who in this opening scene is beginning to realise how poorly and unjustly he and his fellow sailors are treated, and starts to persuade his comrades that they ought to do something about it. A good Asian carp propaganda film would have a similarly sympathetic and charismatic central figure--albeit one with a shorter name. Maybe I'll just take the last syllable and name him Chuck. A good human victim of the Asian carp, I believe, would be a commercial fisherman on one of the rivers where carp populations have gotten out of control. He and his fellow fishermen would be struggling to earn a living because of the lower populations of commercially desirable species like catfish and buffalo. He would feel, then, an urgent need to find some way to make a living.
  4. Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 4.53.05 PM
    Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 4.53.05 PM
  5. Here's the rotten meat that sets the rebellion on the Potemkin in motion. Chuck, perhaps alongside his family, could also be shown with little to eat, since he can't make any money catching catfish.
  6. Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 4.54.09 PM
    Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 4.54.09 PM
  7. I can do wonderful things with this quote if I take it horribly out of context. In Battleship Potemkin it is spoken by an officer, or maybe a doctor, claiming the rotten meat is fit to eat. However, in the carpoganda film, such a line can show Chuck's realization that silver carp fillets are actually "good meat." I could perhaps lead into it like this: Chuck is complaining to his fellow fishermen about not having enough to eat when a silver carp jumps in the boat (this is a common occurence, as silver carp jump when startled and are startled by boat motors). One of Chuck's shipmates moves to pitch the fish overboard, but Chuck suddenly stops him and decides to take to fish home and see if he can stand eating it. And when he does, surprise, surprise, it's actually good. It then occurs to him that rather than trying to catch and sell the few catfish left in the river, he and his fellow fishermen should be catching and selling the Asian carp that muscled the catfish out.
  8. Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 5.00.58 PM
    Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 5.00.58 PM
  9. ...our daily fish."
  10. Or maybe I should play a "the loaves and the fishes" angle: "But he said unto them, 'give ye them to eat.' And they said 'we have no more but five loaves and six million Asian carp." It makes Jesus's job a little easier.
  11. Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 5.07.43 PM
    Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 5.07.43 PM
  12. Here he is again-- that swarthy, mustache-twirling, evil man in black. In this case he's one of the officers on the ship, anticipating the execution of the men who refused to eat their beef and maggot soup. Asian carp, though they make excellent villains in a number of ways, don't necessarily have the personality to fill such a role in a fictional movie. They also have a tough time twirling their mustaches, due to a lack of hands. Therefore, the first obstacle I might place in the way of a revolutionary carp-catching campaign could be the owner or captain of the fishing boat. He might be stubborn and preoccupied with profit, and insist that they can never make money catching Asian carp, since nobody will pay a good price for it. Of course, the lack of a market for carp isn't really his fault, so I'll come back to more potential villains later.
  13. Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 5.19.21 PM
    Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 5.19.21 PM
  14. Here is Vakulinchuk, dead after the battle between the sailors and the officers, martyred for his revolutionary cause. The pathos of his death inspires other to act in support of the cause he died for. The same could be done, then, with Chuck. Jumping silver carp have caused a lot of injuries, so It's perfectly feasible that if the boat was moving quickly a large carp could catch Chuck in the face and break his neck, or knock him overboard to drown. Such an event, within the movie, could be shown to get enough media coverage to finally bring Asian carp into the public eye as a serious problem worth addressing.
  15. Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 5.22.29 PM
    Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 5.22.29 PM
  16. Here are some good, upstanding, simple, virtuous people. And what are they doing? Fishing, naturally. Fishing is one of the world's oldest professions and oldest pasttimes, and was the occupation of some of Jesus's closest cohorts. Battleship Potemkin very briefly makes use of the idea of fishing as wholesome and traditional, but the carpoganda film could place special emphasis on it, calling on longstanding positive portrayals of fishing, from the Bible to Captain's Courageous to The Andy Griffith Show. Such examples would give legitimacy to the idea that the protection of America's fisheries is urgent and essential.
  17. Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 5.26.43 PM
    Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 5.26.43 PM
  18. Just had to say: in a movie promoting the ideals of Karl Marx, it's interesting how much this guy looks like Groucho Marx. Forgive the digression.
  19. Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 5.36.15 PM
    Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 5.36.15 PM
  20. The huge, impersonal army of the Tzar descends the Odessa steps to attack the people. It would be absurd to contrive a way for disputes over Asian carp to lead to violence on this scale. However, I do think I can think of an equivalently huge, impersonal monster who can stand in the way of the coup d'carp: Wal-Mart. Any large food-selling corporation would do, though, really. The corporation would see the availability of cheap, delicious Asian carp meat as the death of all their profits from expensive salmon and tuna, so it would refuse to buy carp, and persuade, bribe, or strong-arm other companies into not buying it either. Thus, the virtuous fishermen would still be left unable to make a living, and the now-growing demand to catch and eat the Asian carp would continue to go unanswered.
  21. Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 5.57.28 PM
    Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 5.57.28 PM
  22. Battleship Potemkin skillfully resolves its conflict in a spectacularly suspenseful, dramatic scene, in which the crew of the Potemkin manages to dissuade the fleet that was sent to destroy it. I'm afraid I'm somewhat at a loss for a way to resolve my carpoganda so climactically. Should Aldi, Hy-Vee, or Piggly Wiggly stand up to Wal-Mart and publicly announce that it will sell Asian carp no matter what the risk? Should huge crowds of people march down to the waterside to buy the fish directly from the fishermen, singing "We Shall Order Carp?" That would be a real tear-jerker, for sure. Anyway, while I may not be a visionary filmmaker skilled in inventing exciting endings, I can see that the carpoganda would be most effective if it had a climactic resolution, which, like the end of Battleship Potemkin, showed that it was in the hands of the people to cause change.