Published Apr 11, 2013In his 2007 feature, Sharkwater, Canadian wildlife photographer and director Rob Stewart documented the atrocities perpetrated by a fishing industry effectively decimating the species and, in turn, undersea life. While he was on a press junket, an audience member prodded him about a recent United Nations study that found all marine life in the ocean will be dead by 2048, begging the question: "why we would focus only on saving sharks?"
After receiving a handful of international awards for his first doc, Stewart set out to make Revolution, documenting the effect mankind is having on ocean and marine life, and what will happen when it all disappears. And, in case anyone missed his original film, he spends ten minutes of his latest ego validation tool congratulating himself, talking about the many accolades he received.
Reiterating the status quo message that dozens of eco-docs have preached over the last decade, Stewart's 86-minute film reminds us that carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels is hurting the environment. Stewart's message takes a step back from a single issue, instead focusing on the greater environmental crisis that ties the fate of every living creature on Earth together.
Highlighting global pollution, deforestation and food scarcity as just some sources of the manmade reasons the oceans are in peril, he focuses on the Canadian tar sands industry as his primary villain. There's a lengthy segment that shows aerial footage of the Alberta tar sands — for the few that didn't watch Peter Mettler's superior documentary, Petropolis — and leads into footage of Stewart attending a rally on the footsteps on Parliament Hill.
No one can discount the overall message of the film; humans need to cut down on their wasteful ways and work towards protecting the Earth in order to sustain the species for a bit longer. But hearing Stewart preach the same standard, undiscerning, broad message in his protracted hipster drawl, unable to force emotion into his voice, extending every syllable, for fear of being perceived as uncool, is painful.
And what's worse is that he reiterates the idealistic notion that today's youth is the answer to all of our world's problems, featuring footage of teenagers attending rallies, screeching out blanket, glib headline assertions, crying into each other's bosoms when they realize the world doesn't care about their snowflake awesomeness as much as their parents told them.
Here, Stewart is merely regurgitating the quotidian message of the modern urbanite, forcing out headline ideals without a great deal of balanced investigation to substantiate or distinguish his babbling from the sea of white noise used to define the identities of the mediocre and well adjusted.
While sustaining the environment is a vital and important issue, it merely complicates the subject when the ill informed offer poorly constructed, incoherent, idealized (i.e., unrealistic) arguments that champion their identity performance more than the cause.
And where Stewart travelled all over the world to capture some breathtaking underwater and on-land footage for the film, one can't help but wonder if he was mindful of the contradiction of his message. Surely flying between multiple countries and using fishing boats to get out to sea weren't the most environmentally sound options.
Much like its contradictions, Revolution completely misses the point: the issue at hand is, and always will be, that of money and global economy. Of course, we shouldn't expect a tousle-haired hipster, bred in the vacuum of privilege, to understand that. (D Films)