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Playing with Sharks – Hot Docs 2021

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The story of marine conservationist Valerie May Taylor is told in . Australian-born Valerie Taylor began her career as a champion spearfisher, before having a change of heart and began to focus on marine conservation with her husband Ron Taylor. Together, Valerie and Ron made underwater documentaries to try and destigmatize the fears of ocean wildlife, particularly sharks. This would lead to the duo being used as consultants on the films Blue Water, White Death and Jaws, which ironically only made their life goal to protect the sharks all the more challenging.

Directed by Sally Aitken, Playing with Sharks is a documentary that follows in a similar vein to Sharkwater, as it looks back at the career of Australian marine conservationist Valerie May Taylor, who was one of the first divers to get up close and personal with sharks. One of Valerie Taylor's life goals has been to dispel the myths that sharks are dangerous man-eating monsters, which have been perpetuated by films such as Jaws, which ironically Valerie and her husband Ron were consultants on. With only 10% of all sharks remaining in the world, Valerie Taylor continues her conservation efforts to this day.

As a documentary by National Geographic, Playing with Sharks is a film that features some excellent underwater photography that gets up close and personal with sharks. Valerie Taylor emphasizes repeatedly throughout the film that sharks are not as dangerous as they appear to be and it's sad that films like Jaws perpetuated that myth, resulting in sharks being hunted to near-extinction, with an increased demand for shark fin soup in China being another reason. Overall, Playing with Sharks is a fascinating look at the lift of one woman not afraid to go swimming with sharks.

Playing with Sharks is streaming as part of the 2021 Hot Docs Film Festival, with a Big Ideas live-streamed Q&A on Sunday, May 2, 2021, at 7:00 P.M.


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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
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