FILMS WORTH WATCHING by Robert Alstead
• Rob Stewart is the underwater filmmaker who, with Sharkwater, showed everyone it’s safe to go back in the water; what’s more, he opened our eyes to the barbaric practice of shark-finning. The film’s impact came from gorgeous, up-close footage of different species of sharks combined with hard-hitting sequences of finned sharks being tossed back into the ocean still alive and writhing. The film was an urgent message to take action. Revolution, Stewart’s latest documentary, is similar in its approach, but raises the stakes. This time, he’s out to “save the human.”
The doc is narrated as a personal journey with Stewart very much in the frame, as he learns about the critical state of many ecosystems around the world (including the tar sands) and gets involved with activists on the frontlines. He’s particularly interested in how the youth of today are campaigning for action on climate change, joining articulate youth delegates at UN climate talks in Cancun in 2010 and leading activists on 350.org campaigns.
Stewart’s prime focus is how climate change is taking its toll on the creatures that inhabit Earth’s largest carbon sink: the ocean. Ocean acidification, caused by humans pumping increasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, is making it more difficult for marine creatures to form their protective shells. Coral reefs that once teemed with life are bleaching and dying off. Stewart’s mentor, professor J.E.N. “Charlie” Veron, “the godfather of coral,” tells us that such is the damage that no other human being will ever see the coral reefs as he has over his four-decade career. “The oceans have the potential to go belly up in the next 20 years,” one of Stewart’s diving buddies tells us, before diving into the Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which has lost half its coral cover.
Stewart’s urgent call for a “revolution” – direct action, civil disobedience and applying pressure on politicians to act – will be a resonant one for many viewers. Time is running out. As University of Victoria climatologist Andrew Weaver says, scientists have done their job; now it’s up to the politicians to do theirs.
The annual Reel 2 Real film festival returns this month (12-19), with around 80 films from 21 countries aimed at youth: from international dramas to films tackling issues like bullying. The festival opens with animation Moon Man, followed by a party and a 3D shadow puppet installation. The fest includes filmmaker Q&As, workshops, get-togethers and audience voting. Find out more at www.r2rfestival.org
Emperor (29th) is a creaky retelling of how the Americans “won” the peace in Japan after going nuclear, through understanding the psychology of the Japanese people and their emperor worship. The plodding storyline is hampered by constant melodramatic romantic flashbacks involving Matthew Fox as lead negotiator General Bonner Fellers. While intermittent scenes sparkle, usually involving Tommy Lee Jones playing to type as the gruff, no-nonsense General Douglas MacArthur, they quickly fizzle out.
Robert Alstead is making the documentary Running on Climate (www.runningonclimate.com).