In the small Belgian fishing village of Oostduinkerke, fishermen use horses rather than boats to go shrimp fishing —one of the very few places in the world still using a technique dating back to the 15th century.
The method makes use of the horse’s strength to pull a fishing net through the shallow waters of Oostduinkerke, the natural habitat to grey shrimp (Crangon crangon), just before and after low tide.
While centuries ago it was also used in northern France, the Netherlands and the south of England, now only 17 Belgian fishermen in the village use the UNESCO-recognized method several times a week.
Our focus would lie with Günther Vanbleu, one of the fishermen who carries on with this special practice. He owns two Brabant draft horses, Martha and Roosje, which he raises and maintains with great skill and care at an 800-year-old farm full of artifacts from the past.
He hasn’t always been connected to horses but as his father was a fishermen, someone from the village suggested him to try fishing on a horseback.
From that point onwards Günther has found a deep love and devotion to this historic practice. We would like to understand this relationship between Günther and his companion horses and the shrimp fishing that he loves. And perhaps, through this exploration, capture the roots of the fishermen’s devotion in keeping this diminishing tradition alive.
Shot by Steven Goovaerts
The environment that we find ourselves in is rich with astounding visuals, sounds, and textures. In order to capture all this, we will be employing mainly observational methods, with a great eye on details of the equipment, fisherman, horses, and the shrimp themselves.
Günther and his horses play the main characters in the environment surrounding them.
We will follow Günther as he carries out this historic fishing method, hearing stories and accounts of his journey to keep a 600 year old tradition alive.
From the impacts it's had on his life and the relationships he's formed towards animals and the world around him.
In 2007, fisherman Eddy d’Hulster told the Times:
“The first time a horse sees the sea and the waves, you can see it running back. They don’t like it. But the right horse is a lifelong companion. There is such a love story between the horse and the fisherman,” he said.
“Once he has a horse that works, he is married to the horse. Sometimes we say we like our horses more than our wife.”
The two must trust one another absolutely, especially in the face of strong currents. There is clearly a special bond between a horse and its fisherman which we would emphasize by the juxtaposition of the two and their responses to one another.
Through this method we will tie together each individual element into a larger picture, so that you, the viewer, can see the bond between them.
Shot by Steven Goovaerts
There is a variety of sounds created in this process from the horses neighing.
Their hooves, sounds of the sea and birds, the clanking of the fishing equipment. All of these sounds help immerse us into this vibrant environment.
Director | Ana Marija Ramić
Hallo! My name is Ana Marija and I am a final year film student of Film Production at Arts University Bournemouth. My focus as a filmmaker lies mainly within cinematography and documentary film and stories that surround us daily, but our eye may wander over. I would like to point my camera and shine a light onto those overlooked human ways of being- onto our quirks, motivations, emotions and things that push us forward, but also help us stay in the present.
Throughout my life, cinema has been a close companion which educated me, helped me develop my compassion and made me a person I am today.
I was born in beautiful Croatia 21 years ago, but my curiosity for cultures and humans pushed me to expand my horizons. Therefore, having moved multiple times and not having a steady place called home nor legacy to take on,to me- there is something very fascinating when it comes to generational passages and the effect on the relationships formed by it. Which is why this unique practice caught my eye. Furthermore, this practice is currently facing a crisis. The urbanization of the coast leaves no space for a farm that can accommodate horses and the shrimp population is lessening as they fish more and more plastic out of the sea. This sets out a question, will Günther’s children have the choice of carrying on with this legacy? I believe we can all relate to the questions of generational passages, the lack of it, or the burden of it. And we must preserve our histories way that are being endangered.
I am so honoured to have such a strong and creative team beside me, as well as the kind participation and contribution of Günther. Thank you so much for your interest and I hope you will join us on this incredible journey.
Producer | Oliver Holmes
Hi, I’m Oliver. I’m the producer of The Last Of The Shrimp Fisherman. Ever since I heard about this dying tradition in the small town of Oostduinkerke, I was drawn to how important it is to observe and document the livelihood of the men who ride their draft horses out so sea for some gourmet treats. Grey-Brown Shrimp. YUM! Unfortunately, this common sighting a century ago is dying out and it's essential if not a priority to document this practice. I was brought on to this project only a few months ago, and I’m extremely excited to work with Ana and her crew. I’ve had experiences producing many shorts while attending University, and I have a huge passion for telling important visual stories. This will be my first independent that I’ll be producing, but I can’t be more excited, as I have a great crew around me. I’m looking forward to navigating this production through all the obstacles that come our way and sharing this art with the world.
Director of photography | Freddie Howe
I am Freddie, the Director of Photography for The Last of the Shrimp Fishermen. My passion for storytelling and filmmaking has been growing and growing over the last few years, but only recently have I fallen in love with documentary filmmaking. Getting the opportunity to tell real stories from around the world and widen people’s perspective on the lives of others is something I want to spend my life doing. Having shot several experimental documentaries in the past I look forward to developing my abilities in a more traditional documentary format. The story of Günther and the shrimp fishermen is a story about the importance of tradition and heritage in our ever-changing world and I can’t wait to make it and share the results with you all!
Editor | Malva Åkerlund
I'm Malva and I am the editor for The last of the Shrimp Fishermen. Documentary for me is about discovering, learning, and following curiosity and documentary editing is what I want to do in the future. The last of the shrimp fishermen tells a unique story and it is a project where I can further develop my skills in documentary editing, and explore my passion for documentary.
Sound Designer | Tom Antoniw
In search of unique stories is what I believe enthralled me to join this project. In an age of a rapidly growing online presence of most people and a reliance on technology to perform most tasks, this story reminisces in an age not so long ago but all too quickly forgotten. As the acting production and post-production sound department it is my aim to create a simple atmospheric environment for you the watcher to experience the sounds of a beach and maybe even transport you there if you are unable to visit.
I believe Ana, our dedicated director, will produce a production that explores all these facets and encourages you to look out for those wishing to keep an admirable tradition alive.
Sound assistant | Ohm Vaewuthinand
Hello, my name is Ohm Vaewuthinand. I am an AUB Film student and will be helping with Production Sound for this documentary. I have worked on many projects before, both fictions, documentary and musical. This project has a really interesting story to tell and seems like a good challenge for me to tackle. With a new crew, new equipment, and new elements to work with, I am aiming to capture and produce high-quality sound to enhance the storytelling of this film. However, that can only be possible with your help and contribution to this film.
Shrimp Fishermen. On Horseback. What else do you need?! Hi, I’m Onur and I’m part of the production team for Last of the Shrimp Fishermen. I’m a final year film student studying Producing and Documentary and I’m very excited to be a part of this film. I’ve worked with Ana in the past and we’ve had nothing but good experiences and when she bought this doc up in the pitches. I was instantly captured by it. It’s an exciting project and I can’t wait to bring my creative and “producer-y?” skills to it, I hope I can help Ana bring her vision to life.
Hello. I’m Ethan, a documentary producer here at Bournemouth Film School. I have had the pleasure of working with Ana over the first five months of this project: developing various production plans ready for the commission pitch in early October. This project is fascinating. Despite all the spanners the pandemic keeps putting in the works for this production; our resilient crew is constantly achieving ways in which we can tell this story. Since the commission, the team has grown, and I’m delighted to see Ana assemble a family of dedicated filmmakers around her.
I’m grateful to be able to continue to support the team, as a production friend to “The Last Of The Shrimp Fishermen”. I’ll be working with Oli, Grace, and Onur to ensure that what ever this world throws at us… COVID, Brexit, or the chance the shrimp get camera shy… we will have a plan to keep the show on the road! Having your support in this production will allow us to continue our passion for creating a platform to voice heart-warming stories. Thank you.
My name is Grace Ault I am part of the production team for the documentary ‘The Last of the Shrimp Fishermen’. Making documentaries has been a passion of mine during my time at AUB and working on ‘The Last of the Shrimp Fishermen’ is the most exciting and ambitious one yet. I along with the rest of our production team have the skills and passion to push this documentary to the best it can be even with obstacles in the way.
Take a peek at our rewards. The quantities are limited so be quick to grab them before the tide takes them away!
(Once you pledge for your reward, we will message you regarding the T-shirt sizes.)
As we find ourselves in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, we have had to thoroughly consider the challenges this documentary faces being set overseas.
Therefore, we have been working hard to find viable options to overcome these new challenges. This is our current plan which requires us to travel safely to Belgium as a crew, by car and across the channel by ferry and capture the film exactly how we imagine it to be! Here is a little pie chart to help you understand where your money will be going.
As these are unpredictable times, our crew are working extra hard with the support of some amazing individuals and Günther's flexibility to collaborate.
But there is one last piece of the puzzle missing, and that is your support:
Be that in a financial way, or by following and sharing our social media accounts with your friends and family.
That way we can spread the word and our story can reach even more people.
This film will be a showcase of hard work and passion,both from the fishermen and his horses and the crew telling us their story.
We hope you will join us on this adventure!
Illustrations & Graphics by: Jordan Brew
Black and White Photography: Steven Goovaerts
Header photographs by: Ana Marija Ramic
Special thanks to Günther, Martha and Roosje.