Sharks are probably one of the most misunderstood animals around. Their reputations have been shaped almost entirely by a single Hollywood movie that portrayed them as merciless killers, real-life monsters of the deep that surface to hunt hapless swimmers. They are seen as powerful, anti-social, lone predators in conflict with humans. As a result, the relationship between sharks and just about everyone is one of kill or be killed. Nothing could be further from the truty
Eli Roth’s moving documentary, FIN, exposes the act of shark finning in which fishermen cut off the fin of a shark and then discard the maimed animal, often still alive, back to sea. Roth travels around the world with a group of scientists, researchers and activists to help raise awareness about this criminal enterprise.
Roth became aware of the role a single dish has had on the world’s entire shark population during his time hosting Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” and its late-night talk show Shark after Dark. It resulted in a passion project that features the likes of conservation non-profits Oceana, Sea Shepherd, and WildAid and is executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and Nina Dobrev.
The film’s title is a dual reference to the practice of finning and to the dish, shark’s fin soup. As we learn from the documentary, the two are tied at the hip. Hands down the most offensive way of feeding the voracious appetite of the Chinese middle-class and nouveau riche, finning displays a wanton disrespect for life. Moreover, even when fishermen engage in a more “humane” slaughter of fish by also making use of their livers, cartilage, and teeth, the overall effect has been a precipitous drop in shark populations around the world. In roughly fifty years, the great white shark has gone from plentiful to endangered and they aren’t alone. You name the shark, it’s teetering on the brink of extinction.
It’s hard to remain objective when confronted with images like the ones shown in FIN and that is obviously by design. Roth feels strongly about the issue and wants you to feel the same. He never feigns objectivity. He doesn’t even try. And thank God for that. The film is stronger because of it. As far as call-to-action documentaries go, FIN is as good as it gets.
FIN will air on Discovery Plus on July 13, and will be featured as part of the company’s popular summer “Shark Week” programming.