Just when you thought it was safe to take what’s in the water for granted, illegal finning is wiping out the shark population. Toronto-based wildlife photographer and first-time filmmaker Rob Stewart spent five years on this ode to his lifelong aquatic obsession, which became a platform after Stewart fell in with Greenpeace co-founder Paul Watson and his merry crew of boat-ramming eco-pirates. Rather than paint a disembodied, March of the Penguins–style nature portrait—or what might have been fantastic in an unbiased director’s hands: a film about Watson’s fanatical crusade—Stewart is his own star, a would-be Speedo model and whoa-dude narrator whose droning reflections (one finned shark feels “like part of my family is dying”) get in the way of his stunning underwater cinematography. No matter how much Jaws-hugging zeal he brings to the deck, Stewart has made a vain polemic that never addresses the finning industry’s deep-seated cultural significance in Asia (where, rightly or wrongly, shark soup is a symbol of economic prestige), nor elaborates on how the disrupted ecosystem affects us humans.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 23, 2007