The shark fan who set up a “Sharksploitation” film festival


Deep Blue Sea - Photo of a man in a lab coat placing something in the mouth of a big shark while looking terrified.

Photo: Deep Blue Sea © Village Roadshow Pictures

This article originally appeared on VICE France.

Fabien Delage has devoted a large part of his life to sharks. But instead of diving to the bottom of the ocean to film their mating rituals or their food delusions, he organized a festival entirely dedicated to shark films. the Paris shark festival, which took place from September 17 to 19, presented the best cinema and TV releases of the sharksploitation genre, as well as a few documentaries.

This specific sub-genre of exploitation films – which capitalize on attracting a highly specialized audience or reproducing trends – first gained popularity with the film. Jaws and has captivated the imagination of moviegoers ever since. We spoke to Delage about the birth of his passion and why shark movies have such a lasting appeal.

VICE: Hi Fabien. How do people become fans of the genre?
Fabien Delage:
Looking at Jaws (1975). It is a rite of passage, a kind of baptism. This is the film that launched all shark fans into the deep end. To call yourself a sharksploitation aficionado, I would say you have to have watched it at least ten times [laughs].

Tell me about the first time you watched it.
I was eight years old and I was staying with my nanny. I was already a fan of sharks but had never watched a horror movie before. I was playing in front of the TV with my toy cars and my nanny was watching it with her husband. I only captured a few clips from the film but some scenes were a bit disturbing, I couldn’t help but think about it for the next few days.

I was both terrified and fascinated – like everyone who just watched Jaws for the first time. Then I saw it again on VHS. You don’t become a fan of sharks on the fly – at first you mostly have nightmares about them – but it’s an experience that stays with you.

What makes sharks such a good movie villain?
Sharks embody our fear of the unknown and the depths. The ocean is a world that does not belong to humanity. It’s a hostile environment – you can’t see the bottom, you can’t stand up and before you know it you end up thinking of all the creatures that might be under you and might suddenly tear you away from the bottom. area. Steven Spielberg capitalized on these fears and created a sea monster; a movie monster.

What did you watch after Jaws?
In the early 90s, the only [new] shark movie releases [available in cinemas] were Italian sharksploitation films, which weren’t very accessible to the average Joe. [In the 80s, the horror B movie genre was very prolific in Italy and included many shark-themed releases, but they weren’t widely distributed abroad.]

That’s why I turned to watch Jaws’s suites [on VHS]. Moreover, Jaws 2 (1978) is the best sequel. Universal made a lot of money on that one, it only cost $ 26million and was ten times its budget. Then they made all the more cheesy sequels, 3-D jaws (1983) and Jaws: revenge (1987). It’s a matter of personal taste, but I always appreciate them. I consider them to be pure entertainment, plus they have paved the way for a lot of other films.

What role do the shark movies play in the B movie universe?
It is one of the main subgenres. I prefer shark movies to slashers, I find them quite repetitive. OK, shark movies also have recurring tropes – like the “should we or shouldn’t we close the beach” moment – but it’s a genre that never gets old. The deep blue sea (1999) gave it new life.

The film was a launching pad for shark exploitation as we know it today and is the first to mix CGI sharks and mechanical sharks [to create the images]. With the release of Sharknado (2013) and Sharktopus (2010), audiences could enjoy both the entertaining and the thriller aspect of the subgenre. You plug in your brain, grab a beer, popcorn, and pizza, and watch it for a laugh.

Do you prefer the movies to use CGIs or mechanical models to create the scenes with the sharks?
I like both. In Ghost shark (2013), a really trashy movie, they created their shark scenes with mechanical models on a green background, as if they had had a replica of Bruce [the nickname of the mechanical shark used on the set of Jaws]. I love this kind of movies.

More recently I thought the shallows (2016) did a pretty good job, although it wasn’t very realistic for a shark to stalk its prey like a maniac. But technically speaking, it was one of the best CGI effects ever. I also liked to watch 47 meters lower, which has a particularly bizarre attack scene, and its sequel 47 meters below: unleashed. Frankly, there is something for everyone.

Why did you decide to broadcast documentaries at the festival as well?
It was a natural choice. I didn’t just want to show trash B movies, I wanted to pay homage to sharks. Documentaries highlight important issues – they expose massacres perpetrated by governments [across the world] and try to propose solutions to safeguard this animal species from human activity. I have dived with sharks before and I am an activist in my own way. Shark films can serve as a platform to encourage the public to learn about sharks and how to protect them.

Do you think the public is more and more aware of these issues?
I think some people are open to message from [NGOs like] Sea shepherd Where Sharks Mission France, which we also hosted at the festival. They know sharks aren’t as dangerous as they claim – you’re more likely to die from a bee sting or mosquito bite. The goal of my festival is to break myths about sharks and raise awareness.

Will you ever be making your own shark movie?
I actually shot a pilot for a series inspired by the universe of the mega (2018). Unfortunately, we were running out of money for post-production and since we were filming a lot on a green screen, the series found itself at a stalemate. I don’t think it will ever come out. It’s a shame because it was a world inspired by the jurassic park franchise, located in the Mariana Trench [the deepest point in the ocean] where people decided to build a millionaires underwater park with a bunch of different creatures.

Which film would you recommend to our readers?
Sent: Shark slaughter (2021), no doubt. It’s a documentary that exposes Australia’s program to control the country’s shark population and their slaughter. The government wants to make sure sharks don’t come near shore and swimmers, but the result is the full-blown extermination of the species. It presents the main figures of shark preservation as Ramsey Ocean Where Madison Steward and many beautiful pictures of white sharks.


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