? Rob Stewart: Save the Humans, Cap Speakers series at NSCU Centre tonight at 7: 30 p.m.
Revolution screening at Vancouver International Film Festival Oct. 6, 7 and 10. Visit viff.org for theatres and showtimes.
HE captured footage of sharks having their fins cut off before being dropped back into the ocean.
Sharkwater, and the ensuing fury over the killing of sharks, was a catalyst for widespread condemnation of finning as well as multiple bans of shark fin soup, including in North Vancouver.
The movie was bold, and in Stewart's mind, it encapsulated everything he wanted to say about the topic, until he was asked a question.
"What's the point in stopping finning if the sharks - if all the fish - will be gone anyway?"
The questioner, referring to a Dalhousie University study that predicted a 90 per cent decline in ocean life by 2048, blindsided the young filmmaker.
"I definitely felt like I'd given it my shot and I'd said what I needed to say on that subject," Stewart says of Sharkwater. "The thing is, the subject changed."
The realization that shark finning was only one element of a large and complex problem spurred Stewart to make a second film, Revolution.
The movie spans four years and 15 countries as Stewart, a native of Toronto, Ont., examines a variety of threats to the global environment.
In shooting the film, Stewart studied deforestation in Madagascar, examines coral reefs in Paua New Guinea, and suffered a potentially serious injury in China.
"I ended up getting a crazy eye infection in Hong Kong from air pollution and running around on the back of motorcycles without goggles on," he says. "We ended up filming this impromptu operation I had to have on my eyelid, which is a pretty gruesome scene and I thought it should go in the movie at some point but we couldn't find a way to make it work. . . . That's probably the only scene that broke my heart that it didn't make it in."
Stewart's love of animals seemed to create a distance between the future documentarian and his peers during his formative years.
"As a kid I think animals were my favourite things in the world," he says. "The weirder and the more dragon-like, the better."
The combination of his chubby frame and the onset of a stutter left Stewart feeling ostracized.
"The kids that I was hanging out with didn't really care that much about animals, and it was a pretty big part of my life. It created a perfect storm to drive me more into the animal world."
That love of animals was evident when he left his job as a wildlife photographer to document the plight of sharks.
"Sharkwater's sort of a love story for sharks . . . Revolution, in a very real way, is made for people."
Never lacking for ambition, Stewart's ultimate goal with Sharkwater was to stop shark fishing forever.
With Revolution, he's trying to save the world. "This has got to be the issue on planet earth. There is not another issue, there's not one of many environmental issues, this is the issue that humans are facing right now," he says.
Revolution likely would not have been made if not for the warm reaction that greeted Sharkwater, according to Stewart.
"As Sharkwater came out I went from thinking humanity and people are capable of so much evil destroying ecosystems and wildlife . . . and started to see the response from people that went to bat and started fighting for sharks in all sorts of countries around the world and that gave me a radically different view of people."
The barrier between the way the world is and the way it could be is a lack of knowledge, according to Stewart.
"People will make decisions that perpetuate human life and other ecosystems on this planet if they're educated, if they just know what's going on they'll make the right decisions," he says.
When discussing Revolution, Stewart speaks in impassioned, breathless speeches.
"We're facing a world that by the middle of this century has no fish, no reefs, no rainforest, and nine billion people on a planet that can't even sustain the seven billion that live here currently, if current trends continue, and if the scientists are right," he says. "Our survival as a species is in jeopardy and we need to do something about it, and that's what drove the new movie."
Revolution is 90 minutes, but Stewart says it took a year to edit his 400 hours of raw footage down to one feature-length film.
The movie is aimed at young people with the goal of substantially changing our lifestyle.
"Changing lightbulbs and driving different cars is all well and good, but it's only going to get us a small fraction of the way there. We need to change our government, we need to change our corporations, we need to change our system of economy," he says. "If we changed the design flaws of this pre-revolutionary civilization we could live in paradise."
The movie covers a serious topic, but to reach its target audience, a dose of coolness is necessary.
"To educate people, we've created Revolution, trying to give the public the most important information, I think, of our time, but sort of disguised as entertainment," Stewart explains. "When I made Sharkwater, it was designed not really for a specific audience, but I made it so that I thought it was cool, and I thought if I thought it was cool as a 26 year old, then other people would think it would be cool. And I did the same thing with Revolution, except on Revolution I already knew that the people that are going to change the world the most are probably the kids, the young people."