Mike Mongo reveals the worlds of marine, shoreline, and in-land eco-biology
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Rob Stewart's Sharkwater
As an field eco-biologist, one who "works in the field," daily I am interacting with one species of shark or another. What more, living and working on the water as I do, I also witness others interacting with sharks. Unpleasantly enough, I see more than my fair share of human attacks, that is, homo sapiens bothering, torturing, butchering, and generally abusing sharks. In fact, horribly and saddeningly enough, molesting sharks is generally considered acceptable, even desirable behavior, even in the 21st century.
Thankfully, last night I had the opportunity to meet a remarkable young man, a filmmaker by the name Rob Stewart, who has made an equally remarkable film, titled Sharkwater. It is not the first film of its type - films which present sharks in a rational and admirable light - but as the most tolerant, poignant, and compassionate of its kind, it is possibly the best. In the least, it is now my favorite. Best of all, Sharkwater is a contemporary masterpiece, combining modern-day ecological drama with some of the most personal and provocative shark footage to ever see the light of day. It may well define the future of underwater documentary. Indeed, Sharkwater is the new standard of shark, sea, and conservationist filmmaking.
Stewart is a field-trained biologist, a budding scientist and a potential activist, whose main career focus and talent is photography and film. He actually looks every bit of a rockstar. (I quipped to my buddy that Rod could be "the Keanu Reeves of marine biologists." Ha.) And for a first film, in Sharkwater, Stewart is fortunate in having created a feature that is as equally heartfelt as it is engaging. It is a film that relies on the strength of its story as much as it does its spell-binding underwater footage.
Perhaps the best part of Sharkwater is its ability to counter-act the spell of anti-shark hysteria which has long been invoked by fear-mongerer filmmakers, newscasters, and media directors. By breaking down the anti-shark propaganda to its most essential element - ratings and money - Sharkwater unveils the unethical desire of large media to ring up large sales figures by inciting fear and dread at the expense of one of the most important, longstanding and significant components of the planet earth's eco-system.
Up to now, said sales figures have been chalked up at the expense of sharks, whose kind are being blood-thirstily driven to extinction by unscrupulous individuals acting irresponsibly for personal and corporate gain. (For instance, a little known fact is that the key ingredient in Preparation H hemorrhoid "medication," a product notorious for its uselessness in treating and even harmful effect on a very real medical condition, is shark liver oil.)
Incidentally, I spent some time with Stewart because he is affable and he approached me to introduce himself. He listened to my comments before and after the film, and I found him to be genuine, sincere, and an artist with scientific interests to watch out for, particularly because the film Sharkwater is such a tour de force.
Tell your friends about this film. This is a movie that is making a difference. I have no doubt that because of Rob Stewart's Sharkwater the world is going to become a more-informed and subsequently better place. Stop watching for sharks, and start watching for Sharkwater.
Posted by Mike Mongo at 9:43 AM