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Sharkwater | Review

Beauty in the Beast: Doc filmmaker lays his life on the line for film about sharks.

While they aren’t the ones that need to perform twelve-hour days at Sea World and they most certainly won’t be Paul McCartney’s favored protected mammal of choice, the shark specie is an underwater animal getting a bad rap. Doc filmmaker and wildlife photographer Rob Stewart explores the public’s misguided perception of razor-sharp teethed friends and takes direct aim at the mind-bogglingly in and outs of the shark fin fishing industry. Revealed in a mixture of gorgeous underwater photography and animal rights smuggled-like video footage, the filmmaker’s passion ultimately brings him one step closer to his own demise – and not surprisingly, swimming with sharks is his least worrisome concern.

Youthful, passionate and hopeful, Stewart narrates and gives a full 101 on his connection to one of the world’s oldest habitants and he is keen on making sure that even if sharks look the part – they don’t play the part. In relation to how sharks perceive humans, they are more docile than some of the freak breed of dogs that inhabitant the earth. Sharkwater offers a diary of both bad and good entries during Stewart’s planned trip down south – both a hellish and paradisical journey to shark hot spots, the opportunity to get close to this creature also means he gets a little to close for comfort with those profiting and participating in its destruction.

Though there are parts that deliver the dreamy underwater worlds, this is not to be confused with National Geographic-like documentaries – here Stewart clearly points the finger at the antagonists of the ecological holocaust. Driven by some Asian’s conception of wealth, it is the mafia-supported business of fishing of sharks that is wreaking havoc – and it is all haphazardly caught on film on land and in the sea.

Citing Speilberg’s Jaws and a mélange of bogus 50’s commentary and stock footage, the doc might still have trouble convincing regular folk that this creature means no harm – but the facts are blatantly presented. If you resemble an injured seal you are worth investigating in a shark’s POV and there are probably more deaths by firearms in a Detroit suburb in one hour than there are during a full year in the world’s oceans by way of the shark.

Technically, the photography is exquisite and on par with similar IMAX experiences to be had, but more importantly, it is the conviction, tenacity and perhaps insanity of the docu filmmaker and a couple of peers that help understand the roots of the cause best.

Acting as one more document that will demonstrate how dumb humans have managed to ruin the plant for good, here’s hoping that the docs trajectory makes itself over to the source of the problem. A badly conceived marketing plan could lump this film among other doc explorations of the animal kingdom, when in fact, this takes a political stance and jabs at cultural ineptitudes with snorkels and speedo suits in gear and with parental guidance suggested.

Riewedon March 23rd 2007.

Rating 3 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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