Eleven years after “meeting” Rob Stewart at the screening of Sharkwater in Palm Springs (cross-reference below), this “coda” to his life and work is moving on many planes: subject matter, biography, legacy.
Sadly, despite best intentions and countless hours of intervention, rabble rousing and speaking out loud, the world’s shark population continues to dwindle—not just due to Asian greed for speciality soups and sexual enhancers—but also found in pet food and cosmetics.
The film’s global tour reinforces the notion that governments from Costa Rica to Los Angeles can always find a convenient—if not always legal—rationalization for trading away the body parts of what films like Jaws scared the bejeebers out of most of us. At $200 per fin, (retail), the continuing carnage is not difficult to understand.
As always, the cinematography (notably the balletic underwater sequences; these beautiful beasts are a pleasure at every turn) moves this production into the realm of “turn off the sound and enjoy the beauty of man and his betters.
Stewart’s on-camera comment, “I believe that I will be OK,” just before his final dive in Key Largo is eerily prophetic. It’s as if—despite the controversy around the oxygen mix “prescribed” by his instructor—the unrepentant activist knew he would soon be dead, surrounded by the creatures he most certainly loved more than humans.
The ensuing lawsuits will bring little comfort to Rob Stewart or his hallowed creatures.
Nothing better, then, than Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s rendition of “Over the Rainbow” to close down the proceedings and send viewers back to their lives where only a few of us have the courage to believe and then live their convictions.
Rest in peace. JWR