(2018) Documentary (Freestyle) Rob Stewart, Will Allen, Steven Kajura, Regi Domingo, Neil Hammerschlag, Tommy Melo, Luis Guillermo Solis, Ryan Orgera, Gordon Hubbell, Deborah Mash, Brock Cahill, Randall Arauz, Rusty Hudson, Eva Meyers, Maike Heidermeyer, Stan Shay, Claire Nouvian, Rebecca Aldsworth, Ryan Walton, Juney Ward, Sarah Fowler. Directed by Rob Stewart
The shark is a much feared and much misunderstood creature. Peter Benchley and Steven Spielberg did the beast no favors; human fatalities as a result of shark attacks are actually pretty rare. More people die by being trampled by elephants than die from shark attacks.
Filmmaker/activist and proud Canadian Rob Stewart has had a love for sharks ever since his first encounter with one at age nine. He has become a champion for the species; his 2006 documentary Sharkwater which showed the practice of finning – the removal of shark fins for use in shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy after which the sharks are thrown back in the water where they inevitably die – has thinned the shark population to dangerously low levels. His documentary got the practice of finning banned in over 90 countries.
This sequel is more or less a status report as Stewart and his team go around the world to see if the ban is holding. Spoiler/No spoiler alert – not really. Several countries which have banned the practice effectively look the other way while fishermen continue to do it, while others (like Costa Rica, known for their progressive stance on environmental matters) have quietly weakened their laws.
Stewart also hoped to get people to see sharks in a different light, portraying them as almost cuddly and certainly not threatening, although anyone who has seen a shark movie will certainly have trouble accepting them as such. There is some gorgeous cinematography as we see these majestic predators in their element as Stewart explains their importance in the eco-system.
Tragically, this is an uncompleted film; Stewart died in January 2017 while diving off Key Largo to film the elusive Sawfish Shark. He was using a rebreather, diving equipment which converts carbon dioxide back to oxygen and allows divers to dive deeper and for longer periods. The mixture in his tank turned out to be incorrect and he died of hypoxia, after disappearing during his last dive which is shown in the film. Considering all the bad players that he pissed off, it makes one wonder if his death was an accident.
I noticed that Stewart’s narration in this film was a lot more restrained here than in his previous film. I suspect that is because he was planning on re-recording it. At times it’s hard to find the passion and enthusiasm that he clearly possessed for the subject, but it’s hard to fault the film considering the circumstances.
His loss is an incalculable one to the environmental activist community. Men like him can’t be replaced. This film will be part of his legacy. He only lived 37 years, but that’s not a bad epitaph to leave behind.
REASONS TO SEE: Beautiful shark footage.
REASONS TO AVOID: The narration’s a bit stiff.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some disturbing content.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Following Stewart’s death, his family hired additional directors to finish the film. However, only Stewart got official credit as director.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Fandango Now, Google Play, Hoopla, Microsoft, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 6/12/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 85% positive reviews: Metacritic: 76/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Oceans
FINAL RATING: 7.5/10
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