PLAYING WITH SHARKS
Sally Aitken pays tribute to a pioneering shark conservationist and underwater cinematographer.
World Cinema Documentary Competition
Sundance Program Description:
Most people aren’t thrilled at the chance to be surrounded by a shiver of sharks, but Valerie Taylor isn’t most people. A fearless diver, marine conservationist, and Australian icon, she dedicated most of her life to exploring the beauty of sharks—forming a sought-after underwater cinematography team with her husband, Ron, and even shooting the real sharks in JAWS. Director Sally Aitken captures Taylor’s enduring passion for these intimidating creatures and her unflinching willingness to connect with them in their element.
Now in her 80s, Taylor reflects on her lifelong journey with the sea while sumptuous, remastered 16mm footage transports us to the mysterious deep and testifies to the richness of the ocean as it once was. Today, only a small percentage of sharks are left—a grim reality Taylor and her husband fought to avoid through their conservation efforts. PLAYING WITH SHARKS is a zestful celebration of Taylor’s life and a love letter to the wonder of misunderstood sharks. After all, as Taylor would say, they could just as well be dogs.
First Sundance credit. Aitken is an International Emmy nominee whose previous work has screened at the Cannes and BFI London film fests and has appeared on the BBC, PBS, Nat Geo, Discovery, and the History Channel, among other notable outlets.
First Sundance credit. Executive producer/principal, WildBear Entertainment. Dalton has extensive experience producing natural history programming for the likes of National Geographic, the BBC, PBS and Discovery, in addition to Australian broadcasters.
CEO, Dogwoof. Godas is the head of the UK-based sales company and documentary distributor.
Past Sundance docs:
Head of distribution and acquisitions, Dogwoof.
First Sundance credit. Managing Director, WildBear Entertainment. Erson previously served as commissioning editor/head of docs at Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
First Sundance credit. Co-founder/CEO, Madman Entertainment. Wiegard leads the film and television distribution and rights management company, where he has executive produced fiction and nonfiction that has screened at notable fests like Berlin, Toronto, Telluride, and Tribeca.