Documenting the journey

In 2006, Canadian film director Rob Stewart made waves with his documentary Sharkwater, an award-winning film that exposed the threat to the shark population. In 2012, after four years of work, Stewart released his follow-up film, Revolution, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

“We’ve won five awards at six festivals,” Stewart says. “The response [to the film] is huge. I couldn’t be more excited about it.”

Revolution evolved from Sharkwater, as the director realized climate change, environmental degradation, species loss and many other issues were influencing the extinction of much more than just sharks.

“I spent six years trying to save sharks, thinking that sharks and saving sharks was the pinnacle of what I could do as a human, only to find out the problem is a lot bigger than sharks,” Stewart comments. “If we end up in a world with no fish, no reefs and no rainforest, and nine billion hungry people fighting over the remaining resources, we would kill the very last shark on planet earth. It was very clear to me that if we want to save anything we’ve got to save everything—Revolution is the continuation of that.”

For Stewart, the documentary process is a creative one. His previous work Sharkwater started as a “pretty underwater movie about sharks”—not a film about the extinction of sharks. But through a process of investigation, that’s what it became. Likewise, Revolution started as a film about Canada’s role in environmental issues but then transformed into a film about youth.

“It’s a totally different kind of movie. In Revolution we take you on a journey that you would normally find in a feature film, not a documentary,” Stewart says. “Revolution also takes you on life’s journey, where you follow life as a character through a 3.5 billion year battle for survival where it was almost wiped out five times in five major extinctions.”

Stewart hopes his films will help to raise awareness about the environmental issues, noting knowledge is the most important way to get people engaged.

“We can’t get the kind of change that’s necessary until people know what is going on,” Stewart concludes. “In fifteen countries in four years the most exciting and inspiring actions to save the world we depend on for survival have come from kids and people fighting for their future.”

Rob Stewart will be speaking at TedX at Western on Friday, April 5. Revolution will be released across Canada on April 12.