Planet in Focus Launches Rob Stewart Youth Eco-Hero Award

By Pat Mullen

Toronto’s Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival honours the memory of late Canadian filmmaker and eco activist Rob Stewart by creating an award in his memory. The Rob Stewart Youth Eco-Hero Award will be presented annually to a young Canadian environmental activist aged 20 or under. Stewart, a long-time friend of Planet in Focus, became the festival’s youngest recipient of the Eco Hero Award in 2013 at the age of 34. Stewart, best known for his popular and award-winning documentaries Sharkwater (2006) and Revolution (2012) died earlier this year while diving off the coast of Florida. Stewart was shooting footage for Sharkwater: Extinction, a follow-up to his breakthrough film.

PiF will present the inaugural Rob Stewart Youth Eco-Hero Award to 17-year-old filmmaker, musician, and activist Jonah Bryson at this year’s festival. Stewart was a friend and mentor to Bryson, and the pair co-directed the 2015 short film The Fight for Bala (watch part 1 of the film below) and Stewart assisted with Bryson’s forthcoming feature directorial debut A Sweet Spot in Time. Bryson began making the feature at the age of 12.

“We are honoured to have the opportunity to celebrate Rob Stewart’s legacy with this brand new award,” said Jordana Aarons, executive director of PiF, in a statement from the festival. “Jonah is a very talented and passionate young man. Not only did he get the chance to collaborate with Rob but was also deeply inspired and mentored by him. I cannot think of someone more deserving.”

Bryson was born in the South of France and developed his passion for water and environmental causes during family vacations in the Mediterranean. The young filmmaker is already gaining notice internationally with Academy Award winning director Louie Psihoyos calling him “a talented young voice.” In 2014, he received the Best Emerging Filmmaker Award, sponsored by Prince Albert II of Monaco, at Florida’s Blue Ocean Awards. Bryson also participated in PiF’s Eco-Hero roundtable with 2016 Canadian Eco-Hero, Dr. David Suzuki.

This year’s Planet in Focus film festival runs October 19 to 22 with programming announcements slated for September 18.

"The Fight For Bala" – Part 1 from Rob Stewart on Vimeo.