Australian Council on Children and the Media

Sharkwater

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Short takes

Not recommended under 10, PG to 15 due to disturbing scenes.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Sharkwater
  • a review of Sharkwater completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 19 May 2008.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 Not recommended for children under the age of 10 years due to the graphic and disturbing content of the film
Children 10 to 14 Parental guidance recommended due to the graphic and disturbing content of the film
Children 15 and over OK for this group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Sharkwater
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Contains scenes of animal cruelty; Infrequent coarse language
Length 88 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Sharkwater is a documentary film written and directed by, and starring, the passionate marine activist, Rob Stewart.  Stewart’s goal is clear: he wants to rid the world of the common myth that the shark is a barbaric predator that is to be eliminated and instead spread the message that they are creatures fundamental to the world’s ecosystem and should be revered and protected.  The film has an emphatic focus on the shark world and the rising risk of extinction that sharks face due to inhumane, and often unregulated, practices such as shark finning, long line fishing and shark hunting. 

Stewart tells the story through his own experiences of a photographical trip to Cocos Island and the Galapagos Islands where he hoped to film underwater footage of the sharks.  On his way to Costa Rico however, his crew run into unexpected dramas that see them involved in boat chases, machine gun pursuits, murder charges, life and death illness and the Costa Rican underworld.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Cruelty to animals; Endangered species

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is significant violence (particularly towards animals) in this movie including:

  • multiple scenes of dead sharks; in baskets, in nets, in a pile, with blood coming out of their mouths
  • children play amongst a pile of dead sharks
  • multiple scenes of injured and struggling sharks; sharks caught in a long line, sharks being dragged onto ships, a scene where a shark has its head half cut off and then attempts to swim away, scene of a shark without any fins alive and unable to swim
  • multiple scenes where shark fin traffickers are seen to cut off the fins of sharks whilst they are still alive and then throw the shark back into the water without any fins
  • a seal is clubbed to death by a man and blood is seen on the snow
  • a turtle is smashed and has its eyes poked out while it is still alive
  • The Ocean Warrior ship is chased by the Costa Rican coastguard who are holding machine guns
  • footage from the film Jaws scene where a woman is taken by a shark
  • footage of sharks portrayed as monsters

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

Children in this age group are likely to be disturbed by the graphic scenes and cruelty to animals described above.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are likely to be disturbed by the graphic scenes and cruelty to animals described above.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are likely to have more understanding of what is occurring, so may be more disturbed than younger viewers. They may also be disturbed by the scenes when the main character has a skin-eating bacteria, is hospitalised and is told that it is likely that he will lose his leg

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by some of the scenes described above

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

There is some smoking

Coarse language

There is infrequent use of mild coarse language throughout this movie including

  • bloody
  • my god

In a nutshell

Sharkwater is successful in its campaign to shock and educate.  It uses graphic and disturbing footage, spectacular underwater cinematography and powerful facts to educate us on the plight of the shark.  It is likely that all who see this film will come away with a changed perspective and a newfound love of the shark, an animal that has lived as an integral part of ocean life for over 450 million years but is predicted to be wiped out within 10 years if practices remain unchanged.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • respect for nature and the world’s ecosystem
  • standing up for what you believe

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • cruelty to animals
  • organised crime and corruption
  • what one person can do to make a difference (looking at the different actions used within the film and their consequences: education of self and others, protests, aggressive methods)

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