Last film car­ries on their son’s legacy, par­ents say

Calgary Herald - - YOU - VIC­TO­RIA AHEARN

TORONTO See­ing their late son, Toronto film­maker and con­ser­va­tion­ist Rob Stewart, div­ing into the depths of the ocean on the big screen again has been a bit­ter­sweet ex­pe­ri­ence for Sandy and Brian Stewart.

On the one hand, they’re elated that his new doc­u­men­tary, Shark­wa­ter Ex­tinc­tion, is com­ing to fruition af­ter his death in Jan­uary 2017 dur­ing shoot­ing for the film off the Florida Keys.

But as the ex­pose against the il­le­gal shark-fin in­dus­try made its pre­miere at the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val Sept. 7, they also find it hard to watch.

“Be­cause he talks through the whole film, it’s like he’s back,” Sandy Stewart said in a re­cent in­ter­view.

“Par­tic­u­larly hard is the end­ing, be­cause it’s the end of his story. I think it’s the start of an­other ad­ven­ture for other peo­ple, but no one was like Rob. He was pretty unique in his film style, his phi­los­o­phy on the world — ‘Be a cham­pion,’ and I think the world has lost one.”

The film is a fol­lowup to Stewart’s first 2006 doc­u­men­tary, Shark­wa­ter. Stewart re­turned to TIFF in 2012 with Revo­lu­tion, where his par­ents cheered him on from the side­lines.

This year they’re front and cen­tre both at Tiff and here at the Cal­gary In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val to rep­re­sent him and pro­mote the film, which came to­gether thanks to help from his friends and col­leagues.

“Shortly af­ter the ac­ci­dent, we went through all of the footage, brought ad­di­tional peo­ple onto the team,” said Sandy Stewart.

“But his en­tire team stayed with it, everybody stepped up. We have peo­ple from all over the world — cin­e­matog­ra­phers, film­mak­ers, re­ally im­por­tant peo­ple — of­fer­ing to help fin­ish this, and that was re­ally heart­warm­ing.”

Shot around the world in 6K, Shark­wa­ter Ex­tinc­tion looks into po­lit­i­cal cor­rup­tion and the pi­rate fish­ing trade sur­round­ing il­le­gal “shark finning,” a prac­tice that in­volves

re­mov­ing a shark’s fin and dis­card­ing the an­i­mal at sea, which the film­maker says is lead­ing to the ex­tinc­tion of sharks.

Stewart’s ex­ten­sive film notes, di­a­grams and sketches helped the team de­liver a pro­ject that has his trade­mark ac­tion-ad­ven­ture style and his over­all mes­sage that everybody can help save the en­vi­ron­ment, say his par­ents.

“What I think we’ve man­aged to do is pull to­gether peo­ple that have ba­si­cally car­ried on his mis­sion and are de­liv­er­ing a film by Rob, which is ex­tra­or­di­nary in light of this sit­u­a­tion,” said Brian Stewart.

“So we’re very proud of the work that’s been done on it. It’s been a lot of work for a lot of peo­ple but the re­sult is well worth it and the mes­sage is very clear: we’ve got to do some­thing to get back in bal­ance with na­ture be­fore it’s too late.”

Stewart was a mav­er­ick in his doc­u­men­tary style, avoid­ing talk­ing heads in favour of taking au­di­ences on a jour­ney with him. This film does the same, said his par­ents.

“We’re go­ing to de­liver a film that Rob would be proud of,” added Brian Stewart. “The un­for­tu­nate thing is he’s not here with us do­ing this.”

His mis­sion isn’t over, though. The Ste­warts say their con­ver­sa­tion group, Team Shark­wa­ter, is ex­pand­ing ev­ery day with mem­bers in­clud­ing the Shark­wa­ter Ex­tinc­tion team.

“Peo­ple are want­ing to be­come part of a team move­ment to cre­ate the change that Rob wanted to see,” said Brian Stewart.

“So I think the fu­ture for us will be to con­tinue that mis­sion and help those team mem­bers de­liver on that mis­sion.”

“Shark­wa­ter Ex­tinc­tion” is set to open in the­atres Oct. 5.


Rob Stewart died while shoot­ing his last film.


Sandy and Brian Stewart, par­ents of the late di­rec­tor Rob Stewart, say they are proud of the film about the il­le­gal “shark-finning” trade, com­pleted af­ter the death of their son.

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