Thursday, January 29, 2009

Watch out for the real shark lovers

"Lady" - our most elegant Caribbean Reef Shark companion for many years (Bahamas)

(Photograph: Wolfgang Leander, 2000)

My dad recently wrote a post, Watch out for the real shark enemies, which stirred up a conversation boiling down to the Discovery Channel not portraying the sharks with a fair "lens", and only concerned about their ratings at the expense of these magnificent animals.

It was because of this post that Geert Droppers from
Protect the Sharks Foundation contacted me and asked if I had seen the documentary Gimme a Hug. To date I had only seen the trailer, Geert was kind enough to send me the full version. To get access to the complete version - donate here.

This is definitely the type of production and story that the Discovery Channel needs to include in their programming during Shark Week. The film is about Cristina Zenato and her interaction with Caribbean Reef sharks while in a tonic immobility. Everything about the documentary is serene, calm, and melancholic - from the music to the cinematography to the way Cristina interacts with the sharks (and breathes through her regulator).

Asked what was Cristina's cutest moment with these sharks, she said it was when she kissed one on the nose...The documentary truly shows sharks in a different light - in a normal crazy experiments, no stupid hosts, no dummies being "attacked" - just sharks being sharks - BEAUTIFUL.

Geert - excellent film, the only thing that is missing are two free divers (or at least one old one) hugging Tiger Sharks... :-)


Sea Steward said...

As a wildlife filmmaker and on the selection committee of a major ocean film festival I reviewed this film for a shark block and we turned it down. The film is nicely shot but gives little story except speculation on Tonic Immobility. Although the filmmaker conveys enthusiasm for sharks, I take away little from this film except you can attract sharks and wearing a chainmail suit handle wild animals. Although more palatable than shark adventure stories, adn orders of magnitude better than shark thrillers, I find the premise extreme and sends a poor message for shark conservation. Sharks are wild animals and shouldnt be fed or handled. Its easy to film sharks that have been attracted with chum. Take the camera and expertise into the real world and tell us hw sharks behave in the wild, and why we should care.

Felix Leander said...

Hi (David?) - I think the film is a good start and the style and concept could be taken further.

Could you send us the titles and trailers of some of the shark films that were presented at the Ocean Film Festival?

Wolf Leander said...


As you said, the film conveys enthusiasm for sharks - that in itself is a strong message, is it not?

These films are made for the general public, and as long as they are not sensationalistic they will educate, at least enlighten.

Evere film, and I mean EVERY film, including yours, can be dissected and criticized for flaws and imperfections.

We shouldn't be too critical with other folks' work unless they grossly mislead the viewers or feed on people's fear of sharks.

I am hearing more and more that sharks shouldn't be fed or handled - some get almost hysterical discussing this issue which I can sense is subtly directed at me.

As long as you don't harm the sharks - what is wrong with feeding them, even handling them?? Not everybody does it; in fact, most divers don't feed and caress sharks. So what's the big problem??

And who the heck cares whether or not it's easy to film sharks that have been attracted by chum as long as you get good shots?

Tell me how to film or photograph white sharks or tiger sharks (or almost any other sharks) that have not been attracted with chum? And I am not talking about schooling hammerhaeds. Those you don't have to attract to be able to film or photograph them.

Finally: Why should all filmmakers do what you think they should do - "tell us how sharks behave in the wild, and why we should care."?? C'mon, David, a little diversity is like salt in the soup. Let others do their thing, and you do your thing.

In the end, what really counts is that the uninitiated public gets to appreciate sharks, and realizes that they are not the dangerous monsters that should be killed to have safe beaches.



bathmate said...

very good posting. i liked it. :-)