Madison Stewart wanted to get one thing straight before production began on “Shark Girl,” a film she says depicts global misunderstanding and a man-made attack against sharks.
"I made them put it in the contract that they weren’t allowed to use the word man-eater in reference to the shark,” said Stewart, a 20-year-old Australian who won the top award Friday at the Blue Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit in St. Petersburg.
“We have to be careful how we word things with sharks,” said Stewart, who grew up around sharks with her family on a boat in the Great Barrier Reef. “Half the battle with sharks is just with media. If it was dolphins or whales it would be a different story. Bad things happen to dolphins and whales, without a doubt, but not to the levels they do with sharks.”
Shark Girl, which was produced, written and directed by Gisela Kaufmann (Kaufmann Productions), was released June 8. The 58-minute film follows Stewart’s campaign to raise awareness about the ocean’s No. 1 predator.
“I hate so many things about ‘Shark Week’ [on Discovery Channel] and the way they twist everything,” said Stewart, who also joined a panel Saturday on shark issues. “They’re just stingrays with teeth. That’s what I tell people.”
In addition to Best of Festival, Shark Girl won best documentary in the broadcast category.
“The media in my country are terrible,” Stewart said. “Anything little that happens with sharks, as soon as I hear it on the news, it’s ‘Oh my, here we go again.’ … They truly demonize sharks.
The ceremonies at the Mahaffey Theater recognized cinematic works for ocean conservation and awareness.
“Swain’s Island: One of the Last Jewels of the Planet,” a film by Jean-Michel Cousteau, won for People and the Sea. The film made its North American premiere at the festival.
“Great White Shark” by Giant Screen Films won in Marine Life and received special jury recognition for 3D.
» Other Winners:
Animation: “Two Minutes on Oceans with Jim Toomey: Nutrient Runoff.”
Best Use of Music: “Yakona”
Children’s: “The Marvelous Musical of the Marine National Monuments”
Cinematography: “One Breath: A Monterey Bay Experience”
Conservation Innovations and Solutions: “Mapping the Blue”
Documentary Feature Film: “Journey to the South Pacific”
Educational Non-Broadcast: “Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch”
Emerging Filmmaker: “A Sweet Spot In Time”
Exploration and Adventure: “Antarctica 3D On the Edge”
Foreign Language Film: “Baja’s Secret Miracle”
Marine Life: “Great White Shark”
Marine Sciences: “Acid Ocean”
Ocean Issues: “The Last Ocean”
Presenter Led Program: “Revolution”
Short Shorts (under 3 minutes):“The Beauty of Mangrove Forests”
Student Filmmaker: “Maly Cousteau”
Surfing and Ocean Sports: “Sine Qua Non: Psychology of Big Wave Surfing”
Special Jury Recognition for 3D: “Great White Shark”
Blue 2014 also honored Sir Richard Branson with the “Making Waves Award” for efforts in ocean conservancy.