It is both inspiring and beautiful and makes an even stronger case for protecting shark since Sharkwater. The message is heavy-handed, but his visual images are stunning to soften the blow.
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Stewart believed people would rally to the shark cause if only they knew the gravity of the situation. The film is now made, the word is out and Stewart more than did his part.
There's a scattershot quality to the proceedings, presumably caused by the Canadian writer-director not living long enough to complete the doc. But the individual segments register powerfully and the underwater sequences are beautifully shot, providing ample compensation for the narrative choppiness.
Stewart recounts how he thought that if his films could make people love these animals, he could push popular opinion against their being hunted. He doesn’t quite pull this off here, despite impressive footage of him swimming with sharks. He does, however, convince us that these superpredators are important to oceanic ecosystems and that because they are so indiscriminate in their eating habits, they are full of toxins.
In Sharkwater Extinction, we also get a glimpse of the sanguine approach Stewart brought to coming face-to-face with the extermination of the creatures he loves.
An urgent and moving plea for action against the illegal trade in shark fins and more generally for the conservation of marine life in our rapidly dirtier and emptier oceans.
While Stewart didn’t live to see the enactment of a new California law last fall that will see the phasing out of the practice already banned elsewhere in the world, his passionate documentary, boasting stirring underwater photography and an equally poignant Jonathan Goldsmith score, speaks urgently on his behalf.
A testament to its maker’s staunch belief in the cause of shark preservation, it’s a plea for transparency and conservation whose gorgeous 4K cinematography should make it an enticing proposition for nonfiction cinephiles and activists alike.