Environment and Film: Sea of Shadows
Richard Ladkani’s brilliant documentary film Sea of Shadows captures a thrilling Hollywood-style rescue in the Sea of Cortez as a team of brilliant scientists, high-tech conservationists, investigative journalists, and courageous undercover agents dare to put their lives on the line in a desperate last-minute effort to save the Earth’s smallest whale—the vaquita—from extinction. When Mexican drug cartels and Chinese traffickers join forces to poach the rare totoaba fish in the Sea of Cortez, their deadly methods threaten to destroy virtually all marine life in the region.
Environment and Film: The Vaquita and the Totoaba Fish
The vaquita, which was not discovered by science until the 1950s or photographed until the 1980s, is extremely reclusive and lives only in the northernmost waters of the Sea of Cortez. It navigates through the murky, sediment-rich waters using echolocation, like dolphins. Population has steadily declined from an estimated 567 in 1997 to only 30 animals by 2016, and 15 individuals by December of 2018. It is currently the most critically endangered marine mammal on the planet. Gill nets used to catch the illegal totoaba fish have the greatest negative impact on the vaquita porpoise. Dried, preserved totoaba swim bladders, long used in Chinese medicine, are now traded as an investment commodity in China.
Environment and Film: Elephant Action League, Wild Lens Collective, and Appian Way
Director Ladkani and his wife Anita were introduced to Andrea Crosta, executive director of Elephant Action League, who connected them with the team at Wild Lens Collective, a non-profit group that had focused on the plight of the vaquita for several years. Timing for producing the film quickly, and financing such a film seemed daunting at best. Then Leonardo di Caprio’s company Appian Way Productions stepped in to help the filmmaker and support the Vaquita CPR mission, designed to capture and resettle all remaining vaquitas in a safe sanctuary. The Ladkani team decided to move forward with the film project. One of Sea Shepherd’s key drone pilots, 21-year old Jack Hutton (pictured) joined the team, and used thermal imagery to locate poaching vessels.
“It was the beginning of a collaboration and adventure that would turn out to be the most dangerous project I had ever been involved in”, says Ladkani.
Environment and Film: Local Fishermen in San Felipe
In San Felipe, Javier and Alan Valverde enabled the filmmakers to see the issue from their perspective. Local fisherman suffered not only under threats from the cartels but from lack of government support. Their story became an important pillar in the film, as a crisis like this can only be resolved if locals who depend on a healthy sea are not overlooked. Set on the troubled streets of the town of San Felipe, the intense docu-thriller offers an inspiring assortment of real-life heroes who willingly risk their own safety to fight for not just one vanishing species or ecosystem, but for the inherent value of all life on Earth.
There will be a Q&A with the filmmakers after the screening.
Listen to the KGUA interview with Richard Ladkani and Cynthia Smith on Peggy’s Place with Peggy Berryhill and Leigh Anne Lindsey.
For schedule and Tickets click here.
KGUA features local entertainment. politics, and culture, specializing in diversity and affiliated with Radio Bilingue, Pacifica Network and KQED. Native Media Resource Center (NMRC) founder and award-winning radio producer Peggy Berryhill has been involved with public broadcasting for 38 years. NMRC has been one of the primary content providers of radio programs and documentaries about Native Americans, working in collaboration with the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Koahnic Broadcasting Corporation, Northern California Cultural Communications, Inc. and Native American Public Telecommunications
Leigh Anne Lindsey and her film partner John Osborne, an associate programmer at AmDocs, have been our filmmaker interviewers of record at the Mendocino Film Festival for the past few years. Both Leigh Anne and John are working on several new documentaries. A travel-oriented video producer in Mendocino County, newspaper journalist in Colorado and California, rock-radio DJ, film editor, and producer of commercials for television, Leigh Anne also has 18 years experience in Silicon Valley in sales, marketing, and creating venture capital alliances.