Movie-Goers Pay Tribute To Late Director, But Not Admission Fees

[embed][/embed] In honour of the late director Rob Stewart, Cineplex Odeon theatres across Canada screened his award-winning documentary Sharkwater on Feb. 25.

Rob Stewart passed away Feb. 3 during a deep dive off the coast of Key Largo, FL. He was 37 years-old. Stewart was a Toronto-born activist, biologist and documentary film-maker.

His 2006 documentary Sharkwater addresses the common misconceptions of sharks and casts a spotlight on the corruptive industry of shark fin fishing.

As a tribute to Stewart, theatres screened Sharkwater in exchange for donations to the World Widlife Fund  (WWF) Canada. Donations will help to continue the work Stewart was doing in the conservation and protection of sharks.

Pat Burnet, a retired social worker, came to the event after hearing about the death of the director and to support WWF. Burnet said the film was impactful and eye-opening.

“I said to myself, ‘is this who we’ve become?’ just thinking about all the horrible things today that we are doing to the planet. But it was also hopeful. I thought he did a brilliant job on the film and getting the message across. I was quite impressed,” said Burnet.

The death of the director has been a shock to many Canadians and Toronto locals in attendance.

Soumen Karmakar is an IT consultant involved in animal activism with various organizations. He heard about the event through Facebook.

“It’s very sad that he died. He brought a lot of publicity to the act of shark killing. It’s just sad because he was a local too. He did a lot for sharks and hopefully it doesn’t end there,” said Karmakar.

Stewart studied at the University of Western Ontario to earn his biology major. After his studies, he worked as an underwater photographer for a number of years before embarking on his journey to create the film, joining Paul Watson and the Sea Shepard Conservation Society. They worked together with governments to prevent the illegal long-line fishing of sharks in places such as the Galapagos Islands and Costa Rica.

President of the Peoples Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), Kimberly Heys, was in attendance. PAWS is a charity dedicated to helping abandoned and abused animals.

“I met Rob years ago and supported all of his work including the fight for the Bala falls. I think (this event) is incredible and absolutely necessary,” said Heys.

A public funeral was held in Toronto for Stewart on Feb 18. to allow all who loved Stewart a chance to say their final farewells.

Prior to his death, Stewart was working on a sequel to Sharkwater called Sharkwater: Extinction. Currently production is paused, but the crew is still accepting donations on Indiegogo to help finish the documentary and carry on Stewart’s vision and legacy.

The work Stewart has done as an advocate for the conservation of sharks has set the stage for many documentaries to come. Even after his death, Stewart’s work continues to be an inspiration for many.

“It’s world changing,” said Heys, “not just life changing.”

This piece was edited by Luke Elisio, Film Editor of CanCulture.

The Antimatter Film Festival

[embed][/embed] An international array of innovative and independent media art can be found at the 18th annual Antimatter Film Festival.

The Festival was filled with a variety of screenings, installations, live performances, and media hybrids, from Oct.16 to Halloween, in Victoria, B.C. Festival Director Todd Eacrett and the Curator, Deborah de Boer, initially developed the festival in 1998.  They had the intention to encourage a larger range of art exposure within the community by using the festival as a medium for underground, experimental art and films.

In the beginning, Antimatter took off on a small scale, solely featuring Canadian works, with  a majority of it being from the West Coast. Eventually, the festival gained international interest and praise. It wasn't long after the festival grew to the point that artists and filmmakers from all over world applied to participate. Eacrett credits the festival’s long history for its success. “Obviously, longevity helps, the longer you do something the more people get to know about it. Especially around the world. The word gets out,” he said.

Its goal was to portray interesting programming and a range of work that demonstrates what is happening throughout the globe. Through high quality programming, the festival provides audiences with the opportunity to immerse themselves  with art and media that cannot be found in the mainstream world.

“The idea is to try to get contemporary media work out there. Where people who aren't otherwise inclined to go into a gallery, or into a cinema, or into museum to see it. Can engage with it, as more of like an everyday occurrence,” said Eacrett.

Among the more stand-out pieces at the festival was the French-Canadian filmmaker, Francois Miron's, screening of his documentary film, Paul Sharits. The documentary tells the alluring story of the life and mysterious death of the legendary experimental filmmaker, Paul Sharits. Miron presented Sharits’ eccentric story from the perspective of the individuals he interviewed for the film, as well as showing clips of Sharits’ work. The indie film received admiration world wide, and was considered one of the most anticipated works featured at the festival.

Another Canadian filmmaker at the event was Thomas Kneubühler. With his short film Forward Looking Statements, Kneubuhler followed the festival’s mantra, by telling viewers what is happening in Canada, today. Forward Looking Statements brings light to a dispute over land in northern Canada that a major corporation wants to utilize as a iron mine, when it is a major hunting ground for the Inuit community of Aupaluk. He provides the company’s conference call as the only audio in the 4 minute piece, along with a perspective video of him travelling across the beautiful land. He provides an intimate look at the beauty of the environment, making viewers question the aftermath of the potential iron mine.

Alberta is another short film, created by the Toronto-based filmmaker Dan Browne, that was screened at the Antimatter Festival. The independent filmmaker created a short movie displaying the breath-taking nature that Alberta’s Banff and Jasper National Parks has to offer. It is a fast-pace piece that has a collage-effect of clips, making the movie extremely stimulating for the naked-eye.

Like these films, the Antimatter Film Festival introduced Victoria to new forms of art and entertainment. As well as, providing experimental artists, who are unknown by the general public, to have their moment centre stage.

“I think events, like what we do, that can really source, find, curate - I think what is maybe, quality work, strong work, challenging work, weird work, and bring it together in that kind of package. And put it together in a context that makes sense,” said Eacrett.

This festival ultimately helps reshape the idea of what art is to masses, exposing people to films, other than Hollywood blockbusters.