“Playing With Sharks” is the latest National Geographic documentary to be released exclusively on Disney+ as part of Nat Geo’s Sharkfest”.

The documentary tells the story of Valerie Taylor, who is one of the original pioneers of underwater filmmaking and shark research.  The film takes a look at her life’s work, from when she started taking part in spearfishing competitions and, through her love of the ocean, got involved in filming sea life, including sharks.  Being one of the few people in the world to do so and set the basis of what we are used to seeing in documentaries today.  We also get to hear from her today, talking about his life and love of sharks.

It’s fascinating hearing about how different animal conservation was back in the 1950s and 1960s, where the only good shark is a dead shark. The concept of protecting animals was completely unheard of, because it was just simply thought that the ocean was an endless resource that humans could take from, without any thought to the future.

Obviously, over time, this documentary shows how even back then, they realised that things had to change as the environment and the sheer number of sea creatures were declining.   The footage in this documentary shows how much things have changed. Some of the shark footage is impossible to film today, because there just aren’t enough sharks in any one location, due to hunting, global warming, and habitat loss.

Watching the classic footage of her from the golden age of underwater photography is fascinating, as it’s hard to imagine the impact this footage would have had when people watched it back then.   And this early footage took Valerie and her husband on some amazing adventures, including being one of the first people to do shark cage diving.    They made mistakes along the way, but their experiences helped pave the way for how people see sharks now.

About halfway through the documentary, the documentary changes direction as Valerie was involved in the making of the classic film “Jaws”, and so we learn some of the tricks they used to film the real-life shark footage for the film.   The release of “Jaws” ended up putting back shark conservation years, as people went on a slaughter spree, killing sharks in mass.

Valerie and her husband then went on a publicity tour, trying to convince people that “Jaws” is fiction and not to fear or hunt sharks.   No matter what they did, they couldn’t convince people that “Jaws” wasn’t real, and the impact that film had on sharks was devastating.  They started a campaign to protect sharks and led the way in getting protection for grey nurse sharks in Australia.  Along with creating marine parks and battling the damaging trade of shark fins.

I adore sharks and have scuba dived in many locations around the world with them, so I found this documentary to be fascinating.  It’s not going to be a documentary for everyone, but if you enjoy shark documentaries, this one is an easy recommendation if you enjoy shark documentaries.    It’s an interesting story to see how Valerie’s career progressed and how one decision to help make “Jaws”, changed their lives forever.

Overall, “Playing With Sharks”, is a fascinating documentary about the life of Valerie Taylor and her husband, Ron.  They’ve lived a fascinating life, and this is a lovely tribute to their work on protecting sharks around the world.  While their work on “Jaws” no doubt will always be regrets about being involved in it, but they have spent their lives trying to undo the damage it did to sharks and ultimately have dedicated their lives to sharks. The last scene is very touching and shows her love of sharks will never go, no matter who old she is. The world would be in a much better place if people viewed sharks in the same way as Valerie.

Rating: 4 out of 5

“Playing With Sharks” is coming to Disney+ on Friday 23rd July.

Roger Palmer

Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom. Email: Roger@WhatsOnDisneyPlus.com Twitter: Twitter.com/RogPalmerUK Facebook: Facebook.com/rogpalmeruk

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