Sharkwater Extinction Parent Guide
The images are moving but the film lacks the empirical data necessary to make it truly compelling.
Parent Movie Review
I don’t know much about sharks. Having lived all my life on the prairies, the only time I’ve ever laid eyes on them was during a childhood trip to a distant aquarium. (The sharks couldn’t compete for my interest, either. I was much more delighted with a neighbouring octopus.)
Documentary filmmaker Rob Stewart had a very different upbringing. After encountering his first shark while swimming at the age of nine, he quickly developed a fascination for the ocean’s most notorious predators. As an adult, he made environmental activism his life’s goal and chose sharks as a prime example of the cruelty and short-sightedness of human behaviour. And it’s not hard to see why. These animals have been the victims of horrendous mistreatment, most famously through the practice of “shark finning”- the act of removing the fins of a captured shark, then throwing the suffering creature back into the water to die. Turns out shark fins are a valuable commodity and are legally and illegally collected in fisheries all over the world. Stewart made exposing this inhumane practice a major theme of his first film, the 2006 documentary Sharkwater.
While waiting in the theatre to watch the sequel, I couldn’t help but feel a little apprehensive. I can’t even squish a spider without guilt - I’m a catch and release kind of person - and I worried that Stewart’s message might depend on a lot of upsetting and gory imagery. I wasn’t wrong. The largest concern for parents in this film is the obvious suffering of several sharks unfortunate enough to cross paths with mankind. We see their futile struggles against fishing nets and fishermen’s hooks, and watch a few flailing, helpless and bleeding, in their captor’s boats. One is bludgeoned by a mallet. Another, skewered and spilling blood, disappears into the murky water. A third, finless at the hands of humans, sinks to the ocean floor and stares bleakly at the camera. The footage is intended to be chilling, and it is.
Although Stewart certainly engenders an emotional response from his audience, the film is sadly lacking in scientific detail. Through his narration, we hear a lot of statistics without the citation of source material. Just where are these numbers coming from and who’s collecting them? It’s hard to say.
Sharkwater: Extinction also suffers from organizational issues. The movie hopscotches from country to country as Stewart proves that sharks are hunted everywhere, including in the United States. But the delivery feels disjointed, and he doesn’t effectively explain if the practice is legal in the places he visits. What does become apparent is that Stewart himself felt no qualms about breaking the law - footage collected in Costa Rica was shot without a film permit. On other occasions, he trespasses, disguises himself as a tourist, and provides false explanations to fishermen and security guards. While his intentions may have been noble, his maverick approach to filmmaking and willingness to justify illegal actions may be a red flag for parents.
Also of note is Stewart’s candid language throughout. In tense situations, (including a frightening moment when the filmmaker and his friends are shot at by shark hunters), Stewart lets slip the occasional cuss word, including two sexual expletives. He and others casually discuss the dangerous nature of their work, and one of them receives death threats.
This was clearly a passion project for the now deceased Rob Stewart, (his accidental death is discussed with delicacy and compassion at the end of the film). And it succeeds in presenting the wide extent of shark hunting across the world’s waters. Unfortunately, without the proof to back statistical claims, the constant imagery of injured and dying sea creatures is moving, but not compelling. In my case anyway, Stewart was preaching to the proverbial choir. What I’d really like to know is how a landlocked civilian who never sees shark meat in the grocery store can possibly contribute to a cause so far removed from my daily life. And in this area, Stewart’s Sharkwater: Extinction just doesn’t deliver.Directed by Rob Stewart. Starring Rob Stewart, Will Allen, and Brock Cahill. Running time: 88 minutes. Theatrical release October 19, 2018. Updated October 25, 2018
Watch the trailer for Sharkwater Extinction
Rating & Content Info
Why is Sharkwater Extinction rated Not Rated? Sharkwater Extinction is rated Not Rated by the MPAA
Violence: Frequent depictions of animal slaughter and mistreatment, including details of blood and injuries. Animals are entangled and injured by fishing nets, hunted for sport, and killed by being shot, bludgeoned, or cut apart. Details of meat processing and food preparation are also shown. The filmmakers are frequently in peril, are shot at, and receive death threats. They are forced to flee a couple of filming locations. Death is discussed throughout, as it relates to animals and human beings. One of the filmmakers disappears during a diving expedition. His death is later discussed. People are seen peacefully protesting.
Sexual Content: Divers wear skimpy swimwear.
Profanity: Infrequent use of scatological slang, and two counts of the sexual expletive.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.
Page last updated October 25, 2018
Sharkwater Extinction Parents' Guide
Rob Stewart encourages his audience to take action in preserving the environment and helping vulnerable animals. Are you interested in protecting sharks or other animals? What decisions can you make at home to have a positive impact on the environment? Are there any groups in your area helping to preserve nature and animals?
Read books about Sharkwater Extinction
Peter Benchley’s bestseller Jaws spread fear about sharks. For a more realistic depiction, try The Encyclopedia of Sharks by Steve Parker.
Looking for an informative, not-too-scary book about sharks for kids? Try Surprising Sharks by Nicola Davies and James Croft. Full of facts and bright illustrations, it can be enjoyed by kindergarteners.
Sharks have also appeared in fiction, famously in Ernest Hemingway’s classic novel The Old Man and the Sea.
Related home video titles:
Disneynature’s Oceans takes viewers on an encyclopedic journey through the world’s oceans.
Finding Nemo is a beautifully animated film about sea life that will appeal to young children and adults alike. Viewers of all ages will also enjoy the documentary March of the Penguins and its stunning coverage of penguins in Antarctica. Younger viewers will also have fun with Happy Feet, an animated story about penguins who want to dance.
James Cameron directs Aliens of the Deep which probes life in the depths of the sea.
Movies like The Meg help to explain why sharks are so often feared.