THE BLACK SHEEP INTERVIEW: ROB STEWART (REVOLUTION)
THE MOST IMPORTANT MOVIE EVER MADE
An interview with REVOLUTION writer/director, Rob Stewart
A revolution may begin with just one man, but it cannot continue at that pace forever, and Canadian filmmaker, Rob Stewart, proves this point when I meet with him to discuss his second film, REVOLUTION, in Toronto, just before it opens across Canada. Before our interview can even begin, he needs to get some tea with honey to fight off the cold he can feel coming on and though he never claimed to be leading the fight to save the planet, it’s pretty clear that he cannot do it alone.
REVOLUTION is Stewart’s follow-up to his revelatory debut, SHARKWATER. The latter played to great fanfare in film festivals around the world and went on to have a successful theatrical run as well. In it, Stewart alerted the world to the atrocities sharks were suffering so that man could enjoy a simple soup made from their fins. More importantly though, he showed us how the extinction of sharks, a species that has survived all five mass extinctions on this planet, could usher in our own demise. Little did he know at the time though, saving sharks was just the beginning, and that a revolution would soon be coming.
“With REVOLUTION, as soon as we knew what kind of movie we needed to make, it was clear we needed to make the most important movie ever made.” Stewart says this without a trace of arrogance, mostly because he is right. “Not to say that it in any cocky sorta way but the world needs this and if the world responds to it, then we could actually make the most important movie ever made.”
REVOLUTION picks up where SHARKWATER left off. Sure we could save the sharks but what would be the point if all the fish on the planet are expected to be gone by 2048 anyway? And what about the depletion of the coral reefs or ocean acidification from the carbon emissions coming from the exploitation of the Alberta tar sands or the deplorable deforestation that is slowly but surely destroying our planet, our only home? When you add it all up, it is easy to see that a revolution is truly necessary if we are to actually save ourselves.
“We needed to bring this story to everyone and it was a giant task to bring the most devastating story possible in some form of entertainment that wasn’t going to depress everybody and make them want to jump off a bridge. We want them to come out positive in the end,” asserts Stewart, an impressively unflinching optimist himself. The biggest obstacle facing this revolution, as Stewart sees it though, is knowledge and awareness.
“Like every revolution in the past that worked, it worked because everyone knew where they needed to go. Right now, we just don’t know what’s going on. We don’t know about ocean acidification; we don’t really know too much about the tar sands; we don’t really know that we’re consuming our life support system. If we did, I think it would usher in this revolution.”
Stewart’s contribution to this fight is his eye, by which I mean his ability as a filmmaker, which stems from his early career as a wildlife photographer. “I’m making movies, not because I love making movies. I’m making movies because the world needs to know these things and I feel this is the best way to make use of my talents and educate as many people as possible on the issue.”
This pursuit can get a little blurry when you’re passionate about both the project and the fight itself. So, what comes first? The movie or the cause? “The movie is always more important,” Stewart affirms with little hesitation. “How high my picket sign is or whether I save that one shark on the long line doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but if we can make a movie that is more emotional, that will hit people harder, because I got the shot, then that could change the world.”
And change the world we must, if we hope to still have one for future generations. This very concept is a polarizing idea depending on who hears it, which is one of the revolution’s biggest hurdles. “When I was telling people about making this movie, I would tell them I was making a movie about how the human race is going to survive the next 100 years. You would get a distinct reaction from someone, let’s say, 45 and older vs. someone 45 and under. Younger people would be like, what do we have to do. Older people would be like, good luck, it’s too late.”
The youth movement gives REVOLUTION the hope it needs to not feel so futile. It is the youth of today that will lead this charge, not because they want to, but because they have no other choice in the matter. “They have the most to lose. It’s the groups that are most impacted by an atrocity that are going to have to lead it,” says Stewart. They are also the most well equipped to handle this responsibility. “Adults rationalize about how we can keep economic growth and save the environment at the same time. Kids don’t have to rationalize that. The important thing for kids is their future and their own life support system.”
What can we do then, right now, to help, I ask. “Get everybody to see REVOLUTION,” Stewart answers. It may seem somewhat self-serving but Stewart doesn’t care how you see the movie, in a theatre or downloaded illegally, just so long as you do, so that your eyes can also now be open.
“I think we have everything we need to turn this around and turning it around is going to be awesome,” Stewart states with full confidence. By this point, he’s even got me convinced.
For Stewart’s part, he is currently developing a television series that will give people concrete, practical ideas on how they can change the world for the better in their own lives. As for his own life, “I want a home. I want to put some roots down. I want to get a dog. I’ve had a dream decade where I’ve been doing what I love with people I love; it’s all been awesome. If I’m going to make another movie and continue this battle though, I’ve got to figure out how to do it in a sustainable way.”
And so what applies to the individual, also applies to the whole.
For more information on the film, please visit the REVOLUTION official website.
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