After seeing Fall of the American Empire this documentary was an entirely different experience. I confess that I have not see Rob Stewart’s other films of which Sharkwater, released in 2006, is the most well known. The latter film was instrumental in an international banning of hunting sharks for Shark Fin Soup – a Chinese delicacy — which was resulting in the mass slaughter of sharks worldwide. While the original film had an enormous impact, the killing of sharks continues today not only for soup but for a variety of other uses including shark meat sold as other fish products like tuna and swordfish, pet food, and even cosmetics. 150 million sharks are killed each year illegally and sharks are facing extinction. While Stewart focussed his films on shark hunting he had a much larger agenda. Driving animals to extinction, he points out, destroys the environment and sharks are not the only victims of human destructiveness. The problem is that humans also depend on a stable and balanced environment and our actions are leading to our own demise. The film is powerful statement, but the emotional impact of the film is tied also the director who died during the filming, suffocating while diving to shoot scenes. Rob Stewart is a Toronto native and his parents undertook to complete this film as a tribute to their son and his work. They were present at the premiere and gave a powerful introduction. One can only imagine how difficult this project was for them since Rob, their son, appears in nearly every scene of the documentary. I would recommend this film to everyone and Stewart’s other films which I will be seeking out shortly. The message is critical.
On a political note, the film was funded in part by an Ontario government grant through an agency called Ontario Creates. The current minister in charge was asked to address the audience even though the Ford government had nothing to do with the film or the grant or the agency. She brought greetings from the government and particularly Doug Ford. When Ford’s name was mentioned there were some groans and boos from the audience although muted in respect for Rob Stewart’s parents I suspect. I really wondered at the lack of thought that went into inviting the minister to speak. Here was a film about the damage we are doing to the environment, the need to change our ways and greetings are invited from a government that totally denies there is any problem and who are doing all they can to move in the direct opposite direction from Rob Stewart. Also given the record of this government one wonders how long Ontario Creates will have any money to support any films or other cultural activities other than labels for Buck-a-Beer cans.