Most vanity projects are angering and troublesome to watch. And while Rob Stewart’s Sharkwater is certainly a promotional vehicle for himself, there’s enough underwater photography and tense situations to make the documentary worth checking out.
The son of renowned Toronto publishers who financed the picture, Stewart is an underwater photographer and biologist whose work has been used in documentaries worldwide. A lover and aficionado of sharks, Stewart has been involved in saving the species from extinction for years and this has brought him into contact with Greenpeace activist Paul Watson who invited the filmmaker aboard his ship. Footage shows us dangerous confrontation with Guatemalan and Costa Rican poachers who are endangering the shark population because of the multi-million dollar shark fin industry that is illegal in most parts of the world. There’s also an incident in the Galapagos Islands where the government comes to blows with greedy fisherman who want to ignore the limits on fishing.
Miraculously Stewart also survives flesh-eating disease as he lies in a Central American hospital waiting for results to see if the bacteria have reached fatal levels. And all this action is interspersed with Stewart’s underwater footage of the sea creatures that is mesmerizing.
Unfortunately Sharkwater is more about Rob Stewart than it is about the sharks, or the illegal shark fin industry. Even his voiceover narration is irritating as he spews information that is never backed up scientifically.
Sharkwater could still be saved, if the director would just remove himself from the picture and add more factual material.
Starring Rob Stewart and Paul Watson. Directed by Rob Stewart.
By Angela Baldassarre
Originally Published: 2007-03-25