Review: Sharkwater Extinction is a solid doc, until it becomes a memorial

SHARKWATER EXTINCTION (Rob Stewart). 86 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (October 19). See listing. Rating: NNN

It’s impossible to know what Sharkwater Extinction would have been like had Rob Stewart lived to complete it. Though the filmmaker and activist is billed as writer, director and director of photography, his death during production in January 2017 couldn’t help but change the documentary’s focus. 

Thankfully, this version – shaped by creative consultant Sturla Gunnarsson – mostly avoids the trap of turning into a memorial project, delivering a proficient assembly of the footage Stewart and his team shot over the last year of his life. 

At ports around the world, Stewart and his crew track the activities of commercial shark-fishing operations to expose deceptive practices and enlighten audiences about the creatures he spent his adult life trying to protect. 

And then Team Sharkwater ends up at “the last dive” in the Florida Keys, at which point the doc shifts into full tribute mode, complete with a montage tracked to Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole’s medley of Over The Rainbow and What A Wonderful World – you know, the song that always turns up when a movie needs to wring wistful tears from an audience as quickly as possible.

Up until then, though, Sharkwater Extinction is a solid journalistic work that honours the man who made it. That’s something. | @normwilner

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