Imagine a movie that wants us to learn to appreciate the unfairly maligned pit bull. First-time filmmaker Rob Stewart attempts a similar reputation reconstruction on the shark in his rambling, but eye-opening documentary, Sharkwater.
Puncturing the myths of their man-eating habits and praising them as one of nature’s most evolved creatures, he lays a lot of the blame for our collective fears squarely on the movie Jaws.
Stewart, an accomplished underwater photographer, gets some astonishing visuals of schools of sharks, and fills us in on their true nature in his laid-back, monotoned narration. Then he focuses on the real creature of peril — yup, it’s man — as he tracks and tries to bring to justice illegal shark poachers who kill sharks by the hundreds of thousands annually for their valuable fins.
Joining the crew of an ecology activist, Stewart keeps his camera rolling as his ship rams the poachers and brings them into port. But it is Stewart and his captain who are arrested and charged with attempted murder. Again, it is those two-legged creatures who pose the real threat in this world.
Sharkwater gets a bit repetitive in its pro-shark advocacy. It could be more effective with judicious editing and a better narrator. But few who see this film will ever view sharks in the same light again.
By Hap Erstein
Palm Beach Post