The vaquita, the world’s smallest whale, is near extinction as its habitat is destroyed by Mexican cartels and Chinese mafia, who harvest the swim bladder of the totoaba fish, the “cocaine of the sea.” Environmental activists, Mexican navy and undercover investigators are fighting back against this illegal multi-million-dollar business.


“Urgent and suspenseful” - The Hollywood Reporter

“A heart-grabbing exposé” - Variety

"A chilling real-life criminal thriller" - LA Times


A looming disaster in one of the most spectacular environments on Earth sparks a rescue mission unlike any other in Sea of Shadows, a riveting new documentary with the intensity of a Hollywood thriller from National Geographic Documentary Films and winner of the Sundance audience award. When Mexican drug cartels and Chinese traffickers join forces to poach the rare totoaba fish in the Sea of Cortez, their deadly methods threaten virtually all marine life in the region, including the most elusive and endangered whale species on Earth,the vaquita porpoise. Sea of Shadow follows a team of dedicated scientists, high-tech conservationists, investigative journalists and courageous undercover agents as well as the Mexican Navyas they put their lives on the line to save the last remaining vaquitas and bring the vicious international crime syndicate to justice.


Richard Ladkani has gained international recognition for his award-winning feature documentaries. His 2016 Netflix Original, The Ivory Game, executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, produced by Walter Köhler and co-directed by Kief Davidson, was shortlisted for an Academy Award. An investigative docu-thriller about the illegal ivory trade and the threat of elephant extinction, the movie premiered at the Telluride and Toronto International Film festivals and won multiple international awards. In early 2015 Ladkani and his wife, Anita, founded Malaika Pictures to produce films that shine a spotlight on the most pressing environmental and political issues facing the world today. They are currently developing a scripted feature film based on the bestselling book “City of Thorns”, chronicling the plight of refugees, in one of the largest UNHCR camps in the world, Dadaab, in Kenya. Among Ladkani’s most renowned films are Escape Over the Himalayas, The Devil’s Miner, Jane’s Journey, Vatican: The Hidden World and Gas Monopoly. His signature “you-are-there” approach to filmmaking gives audiences an immediate and visceral connection to his subjects. He lives near Vienna, Austria, with his wife and two daughters.


Filmmaker: Richard Ladkani
Country: Austria
Year: 2019
Runtime: 105'
Format: HD



World Cinema Documentary Audience Award - Sundance Film Festival 2019

Minnesota Cinematic Arts Award - Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival 2019

Nominated- Best Cinematography - Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards

Nominated- Best Editing - Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards

Nominated- Best Score - Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards

Nominated- Best Science/ Nature Documentary - Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards


festival highlights

Sundance Film Festival 2019

CPH:DOX 2019

Hong Kong International Film Festival 2019

DOC NYC 2019