The documentary “Nerka. The Red Fish” was first shown in March 2020 and has already received over 80 awards at documentary film festivals around the world. The picture of wild salmon spawning every year in the Kuril Lake on the territory of the South Kamchatka Reserve was named the best media project of 2021 by the RGS experts.
Russian Geographical Society annually awards the best projects in the field of national geography, ecology, preservation and popularization of natural, historical and cultural heritage.
The film director Dmitry Shpilenok and producer Anna Sukhova got the award from world screen star Steven Seagal, who became a member of RGS in 2019.
“I`d like to say that the region where this film was shot - the Far East, Kamchatka - is one of the greatest natural treasures of the world. It’s remarkable that people are contributing to the conservation of this nature and biodiversity by making these kinds of films. Kamchatka is one of my favorite places in Russia”, - said Steven Seagal. He recently visited Kamchatka personally.
The idea of a documentary film about wild salmon appeared in 2007. Then Tikhon Shpilenok, the nephew of Dmitry, came to work in the security service of the Kronotsky Reserve and discovered the incredible scale of poaching on the Kuril Lake. Crews of poachers mined up to several tons of precious caviar every night during the spawning season (they were shown in the film using archive operational footage).
Tikhon, a representative of the younger generation of the well-known Russian reserve dynasty, shared his observations with his father Igor Shpilenok who created the reserve «Bryansk Forest» and Uncle Dmitry. Together with like-minded reserve inspectors and public environmentalists, they decided that poaching must be eradicated. The decision resulted in many years of hard struggle against violators.
Alongside creating the script and shooting of “Nerka. The Red Fish” Dmitry Shpilenok had to put the camera off and take the gun. He devoted a few years to the fight against poachers as the state inspector of the Kronotsky Reserve. Tikhon Shpilenok became a director of the reserve later. He continued this struggle until 2016, when he died of a serious illness. The work was continued by his younger brother Piotr Shpilenok. Today he is the director of the Kronotsky Reserve. Peter and the entire team of the reserve took an active part in the work on the film.
Wild salmon nerka is the heart of the local ecosystem and that’s the main idea of the film. “As blood, it carries the life to the South of Kamchatka”, - says the movie trailer, which was shown at the RGS award ceremony. The unique fish feeds eagles, brown bears, foxes and other fish-eating animals. It serves as a breeding ground for hundreds of plant species. Nerka is a breadwinner for people as well. Life of many settlements of the peninsula is associated with the fishery of nerka. Overfishing of the population of Nerka can cause its extinction. The consequences for the region could be catastrophic.
“While working in Kamchatka we understood that catching poachers is not enough. We need to invest in the creation of such documentaries. Today we received the RGS award. It means that someone heard us. But this territory and the reservation work as a whole needs the recognition much more than we do. If the film about the importance of nature protection receives such recognition, it is an important success for the whole reservation community”, - said Dmitry Shpilenok at the ceremony of the RGS Award.
The documentary “Nerka. The Red Fish” received awards over 80 prestigious film festivals, including:
- ECOFILM Festival — Grand Prix and Award of the Czech Minister of Environment 2020;
- Green Screen International Wildlife Film Festival – Best Independent work;
- Los Angeles Movie Awards – Best full-length documentary film;
- Canadian Cinematography Awards – Best Wildlife Film;
- New York Movie Awards – Best Feature Documentary - Wildlife Film;
- Wildlife Film Festival Rotterdam – Best film in the nomination “Wildlife Conservation”.