Sea of Shadows documentary on vaquita marina reaps awards at Sundance

Por José Antonio Pérez

As the 2019 Sundance Film Festival wrapped up the first week of February, the documentary “Sea of Shadows” about the vaquita marina in the Sea of Cortez garnered the Audience Award in the International Documentary area and was acquired by National Geographic for distribution.

The work presents both public and private efforts aimed at preventing the extinction of the vaquita marina, which is endemic to the Sea of Cortez and Upper Gulf of California.

“Sea of Shadows” was directed by Austrian director Richard Ladkani, who specializes in environmental documentaries, with actor Leonardo DiCaprio serving as executive producer.  Since the late nineties, DiCaprio has been dedicated to environmental activism in parallel to his career in cinema.

Furthermore, among participants in the documentary is Mexican journalist Carlos Loret de Mola, who was at Sundance to accompany the showing.

According to the official Sundance Festival site, Sea of Shadows is a thriller documentary recording how the struggle between Mexican cartels and the Chinese mafia for trafficking endangered totoaba has led to the end of the vaquita marina in the Sea of Cortez.

The Richard Ladkani film “follows undercover researchers, environmentalists, journalists, and the Mexican navy in their furious last-ditch efforts to rescue the vaquita from extinction, revealing this expanding black market.”

Sea of Shadows was first shown on January 27th at Sundance, taking the Audience Award in the International Documentary category by the end of the festival.  National Geographic Documentary Films bought the documentary for around 3 million dollars for distribution. According to The Hollywood Reporter, this is believed to have been the biggest nonfiction acquisition at Sundance this year.

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