Island of the Sharks

on April 30, 1999 by Pat Kramer
   This visually arresting large-format film takes viewers to Cocos Island, a small, uninhabited Pacific paradise known for its abundant sea life--including several varieties of man-eating shark. Located 300 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, this rugged volcanic island was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's pirate story "Treasure Island" and, more recently, Michael Crichton's "Jurassic Park." However, it's most well-known for having the world's highest concentration of large marine predators, including vast schools of hammerhead, white-tip, black-tip and silky sharks.
   Armed with little more than an underwater camera and a sincere interest in and appreciation for oceanic life, the veteran underwater directing/producing team of Howard Hall and Michele Binder Hall (whose previous filmic forays include IMAX's Academy Award -nominated "The Living Sea" and IMAX 3-D's "Into the Deep") donned scuba gear and literally swam with the sharks to obtain authentic footage for the film. The pair captured their subjects' beauty, elegance, coordination and lightning speed as if filming an underwater ballet, complete with an orchestral score by composer Alan Williams.
   In one of the film's many highlights, hundreds of vicious-looking hammerheads are filmed from perhaps 20 feet away, gracefully swimming against the sunlit surface. Giant stingray glide by in a majestic procession while a quizzical-looking moray eel pokes his head out of a cave, looking more comical than dangerous.
   This documentary is rich with insight that should counteract years of negative publicity generated by films like the "Jaws" franchise and Warner's current thriller "Deep Blue Sea." This is one shark film that won't give children nightmares; after getting to know these denizens of the deep, one will instead feel an appreciation for the species' ability to survive the rigors of overfishing, pollution, and the human impulse to kill that which we fear. Narrated by Linda Hunt. Directed by Howard Hall. Produced by Michele Binder Hall. An IMAX release. Documentary. Unrated. Running time: 40 min
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