Features and Columns

Fund This Film: ‘Extinction Soup’ Could Be The Next ‘Blackfish’

By  · Published on December 14th, 2013

extinction soup 1

With the success of both Blackfish and The Cove, don’t be surprised if the marine life issue films keep coming. They’ve actually been around for a while, as I pointed out in a post last month about the ten-year-old documentary Lolita: Slave to Entertainment. But now they’re increasingly better quality and therefore have been garnering more attention at bigger festivals and through more prominent distributors and ultimately from larger audiences. That means greater awareness and influence, of course. The Cove even won an Oscar and now Blackfish is on the shortlist for the same award. So, what aquatic animal in need is set to follow dolphins and orcas onto the big screen? Sea lions? Manatees? Humpback whales? Well, this time it’s actually a trickier creature to get people to care about: sharks.

There’s a new documentary in the works called Extinction Soup, and its focus is on the problem of a particular delicacy in Asia known literally as shark fin soup. Apparently it used to be less of an issue that sharks were killed solely for their appendages because only the wealthy afforded and enjoyed the luxury dish. However, now it’s popularly found all over China as a staple of the country’s cuisine, and so naturally the animals are becoming endangered as a result of more than 70 million sharks of various species being slaughtered every year. Because audiences are less likely to worry about creatures that aren’t so cute and cuddly as the sea mammals who do tricks at SeaWorld, the main case to be made for the cause in this film is how a decrease in shark numbers leads to an issue of ecosystem disturbance.

If you’re not one of the many who sees sharks as villains, perhaps you’ve already seen Rob Stewart’s 2006 documentary Sharkwater, which touches on the shark fin soup problem among other things. And maybe you’re excited about the follow-up, Revolution, which recently hit theaters in limited release. Is there room for another film on the same subject matter? If it’s also a strong piece of nonfiction storytelling, yes. Extinction Soup already promises an interesting narrative in the form of director Philip Waller having started out making a whole different movie, one about an extreme sports legend, and it somehow turned into a movie about shark slaughter. It’s no 180-degree turn, but it is pretty neat that this is the second doc in a row profiled on Fund This Film to involve a drastic change in concentration.

Waller, a former child actor who may be best known for an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, is rather new to working behind the camera, and hopefully that doesn’t make the change in direction an awkward aspect of the doc. I’m all for an amateur detective sort of investigatory film, a la Roger and Me and Gasland, and it’s important that this keep focus on the issue rather than Waller’s experience finding his focus on the issue. Adding some professional weigh to the project, thankfully, is producer Sidney Sherman, who previously worked on the docs Amargosa, Go Tigers! and Oscar winner The Last Days, as well as the John Travolta gangster film Lonely Hearts. Also the score is being composed by Randy Miller, an orchestrator and conductor for The Fast and the Furious and Contagion.

Extinction Soup is currently raising money through the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, and with the Christmas Eve deadline being more than a week away, it seems very likely to reach its $30k goal (at the time of this posting, it has already taken in $24k). And that’s without a lot of different pledge incentives being offered. There must just be enough people out there who do care about sharks in spite of their reputation. Of course, you needn’t be deterred from contributing just because it’s doing well. As with most campaigns of this sort, there’s the amount that rewards you with an early digital copy, and in this case the estimated delivery time on that is April. That’ll give them a long lead to spread to the masses in time to make Shark Week 2014 a total flop next August, right?

Check out the doc’s campaign video below.

Do you want to see this film? Enough to help fund it?
Extinction Soup photos via the film’s Facebook page. Waller on ST:TNG via Memory Alpha.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.