South Beach Shark Club

Sometimes certain documentary films seem so niche that you wonder who would be drawn to watching them. I am sure most will think just that when they see the description of Robert Requejo Ramos’s (first film) film. Who would be interested in a doc about a group of guys in Miami who fish for sharks? A tiny amount of people, I bet. But if you begin watching South Beach Shark Club you will realize that it is also a history of the South Beach area of Miami as well as being about a tight group of competitive fishermen.

At the beginning of the 1970s, Miami’s South Beach became a place where a group of young men started fishing for sharks. The group was led by a man who has been proclaimed by most as the greatest shark fisherman in the world, Rene De Dios. De Dios became a legend in the area. A man who lived to fish. He never backed down from a battle with the huge powerful sharks in those waters.

Others featured in the film include the retired JD Hammer and Shannon “Seaweed Jr” Bustamante, who represents the younger generation of shark fishermen. We learn how shark fishing has changed. It still happens but many of the fishermen throw the sharks back into the water. They no longer attempt to make a living off of catching sharks. The young fishermen don’t pay the rent via shark fishing; they just like hanging out on the piers. They do fight to protect what they see as a sport and the community they have established. But they are aware of how sustainability and protecting the shark population are key.

De Dios is dead, so others who knew him or have heard stories about him, endeavour to tell his tale. Besides the interviews, Ramos also uses plenty of archival footage from the 70s. Through these interviews and stories we learn that De Dios was obsessed. He lived and breathed shark fishing. People wanted to be around him; Rene De Dios was bigger than life at that time in Miami.

Besides the interesting stories of the men who fished off the South Beach piers and from boats for sharks you also get an interesting and enlightening history of the area. I had no idea that Miami during that time was considered a sleepy beach town as it is anything but today. Also that the now expensive to live in area of South Beach was where lower income people used to live. You learn that much of the population of the area was made up of immigrants, especially those from Cuba. The archival images of South Beach show a very different place than it is today. Or even how quickly it grew as by the 80s it was the glitzy city featured in television series like Miami Vice.