Everyday Activist - Good-bye Rob Stewart

Posted on Monday, February 20, 2017 at 11:00 AM

Good-bye Rob Stewart

Movie Review by Everyday Activist X CalgaryMovies.com

The disappearance and finally closure of the search team finding Rob Stewart’s body at approximately 70 m under the water was hard for me to accept. For those who don’t know, he was a Canadian biologist, activist, filmmaker, adventure traveler and someone who cared deeply about his world. To lose him broke my heart, especially given that we’re the same age and I met him in person when he presented (R)evolution in 2013, at the University of Calgary. I have followed Rob Stewart’s activist career for the last 11 years, when I started SCUBA diving back in 2006.

In 2015, some may remember my “protest piece” when the best Canadian films were announced and Sharkwater wasn’t among them even though it changed the way the world saw sharks. (EA Review: Sharkwater). Before that I had written about (R)evolution, which had a much broader scope of environmentalism. It was a visually stunning work complete with hope for the future as he focused on inspiring youth to mobilize to help the environment. Revolution had also been well received, winning International awards.

Rob died filming Sharkwater II, the sequel to the original film. Much like multimedia war journalist, Tim Hetherington, whom I have also written about here, Rob’s death didn’t make sense to me. Diving to 70 m is difficult under optimal conditions as a first dive of the day with mixed gas. To have done two other dives earlier that day as well as using a rebreather on the final dive pushed the line of what could safely be accomplished. Rob surfaced fine, but then disappeared under the water, while others on the boat helped his dive partner. Would things have been different had he signaled distress; instead of giving the ok? What if someone would have thrown him a flotation device knowing that he was coming off of a stressful dive or better yet had support divers to assist?

Activism and mental illness share uncanny similarities. People in these conditions feel isolated and misunderstood as the reality they experience differs from that of the majority of people. This disconnect can be hard to reconcile and sometimes it’s just easier to let go than to keep fighting. Both Tim Hetherington and Rob Stewart gave their best to create a better world; to create awareness around issues they cared deeply about. We can only hope that in the future someone just as passionate about environmental issues chooses to finish what Rob started.

Rob’s parents owned Tribute magazine, which had helped him get his foot in the door when he filmed Sharkwater, after his print ad campaign to save sharks hadn’t worked out. He fought valiantly against flesh eating disease in his 20s only to die alone in the cold, dark depths of the ocean that he wanted so badly to protect. Cineplex will do a tribute to Rob Stewart on Saturday February 25th at 4:30 pm at Eau Claire Cinemas in Calgary by screening Sharkwater: A Tribute to Rob Stewart for free or if you’re in Edmonton at the Cineplex at South Edmonton Common.


NOTE: The showtimes listed on CalgaryMovies.com come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to CalgaryMovies.com.