Darien resident’s Shark Week documentary explores deadly 2018 attack: A real-life ‘Jaws’

DARIEN — The annual pop culture phenomenon known as Shark Week features a plethora of shark-themed television programming — including, this year, a documentary created and produced by one of Darien’s own.

It’s been two years since David Roofthooft, a former creative director at entertainment company HBO, began to work on what he calls the real-life version of “Jaws.” His film, “Great White Intersection,” will now have its premiere on July 23 on the streaming service Discovery+.

The film explores the leadup to and fallout from a grisly shark attack on Newcomb Hollow Beach in Cape Cod, Mass., which left 26-year-old boogie boarder Arthur Medici dead. The 2018 attack was the first fatal shark incident in the state since 1936, stunning the region.

Initially approached by a friend with ties to Cape Cod’s surfing community to create a shark awareness video, Roofthooft and his team soon discovered there was a more complex situation at hand.

“What we will do is ask a lot of questions and make you think a lot,” Roofthooft said. “And by the end, the clear answer you will get is that we all definitely have to learn to live together as the ecosystem on Cape Cod is evolving. But there are no simple answers. That is the truth. There just isn’t an easy fix.”

In recent years, the population of great white sharks near Cape Cod has ballooned, tied to burgeoning numbers of one of their primary food sources — seals.

Their presence has complicated Cape Cod’s long and fruitful relationship with beach tourism, which drives much of the local economy, and sparked debates between conservationists, animal rights advocates, surfers and local officials. Medici’s death, which capped a series of shark attacks that dealt serious injuries to their human victims, was a flashpoint in many of those debates, Roofthooft said.

Roofthooft and his team interviewed more than two dozen people for the film, careful to represent all sides of the story, he said.

“We wanted to present a story with real integrity because it involves real people. Somebody died,” Roofthooft said. “We didn’t want to do something that was salacious and exploitational or sensational. We were so not interested in that.”

Filming began in 2019 for the movie, which runs about an hour and a half, Roofthooft said. His team pitched the documentary to Netflix, National Geographic and Discovery, with the latter ultimately becoming the film’s destination.

And the film’s central issue — the complex and evolving nature of the humans’ relationship with sharks — could be of special interest to Darien, a coastal community in its own right.

“Ultimately, I think we’re gonna see more and more of them coming down this way,” Roofthooft said, adding that the film “is not just about sharks, it’s about so many things that go way deeper. It’s a human story, at the end of the day.”