Back in 2006, Canadian filmmaker Rob Stewart released a documentary that had a profound effect on the preservation of the world’s shark population.
Sharkwater was a hugely respected, award-winning film that exposed the corruption rooted in the shark fishing industry, particularly in areas such as Costa Rica and Ecuador, while helping scientists understand the importance of sharks in the age of man-made climate change.
With every species of shark still under existential threat, Stewart decided he had to go again, eventually coming up with a sequel – Sharkwater Extinction.
Treading much of the same ground as the previous movie, Extinction exposes the scale at which mankind is destroying the shark population in the name of food, sport fishing and even beauty products.
Stewart sets off on a journey around the the same shark-destroying climes (mostly Costa Rica) with a small team of helpers, filming his experiences as he quizzes locals and politicians about what’s occurring, secretly filming warehouses and boats full of dead sharks and sliced-up fins.
Sadly, Stewart died in a scuba accident halfway through production of the film, and while the footage collected up to that point does land a heavy blow, the final film quite understandably lacks an overall direction.
As well as his friends and colleagues did finishing the film off for release, there’s no real impact on the guilty parties. Without Stewart to lead the charge, the narrative meanders to a heartbreaking end.
But what it does have is a fantastic sense of the oceans. Shot in a stunning 6k resolution, the camerawork under the sea, combined with a mesmeric score creates an awe-inspiring site and dispels the notion that sharks are anything other than beautiful creatures that ought to be left entirely alone. One shot, in particular, of a shark meeting its demise in a fishing net is desperately haunting. An eye-popping image of a total travesty.
The final reel deals with Stewart’s disappearance and death, while urging people to take on the message that this brave soul was desperate to spread in his 37 years. And while it’s a message we undoubtedly need to take on board, it’s a tragedy that Stewart was unable to land it himself.