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Double Success for ‘Sea of Shadows’ at Sundance

February 2019: For our new feature documentary ‘Sea of Shadows’, directed by Richard Ladkani (The Ivory Game), produced by Terra Mater Factual Studios in association with Appian Way, Malaika Pictures and The Wild Lens Collective, it was a successful festival from the early beginning: Each of the 8 screenings ended with standing ovations, the theaters were sold out, public and media were impressed by the film and aroused by the topic. On Saturday, the success of ‘Sea of Shadows’ was crowned with the Audience Award in the World Cinema Documentary Competition and some hours before with the prosperous acquisition by National Geographic Documentary Films.

(L-R) Richard Ladkani, Walter Kohler, Wolfgang Knopfler, , Jack Hutton, Anita Ladkani, Andrea Crosta at the Award Ceremony during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival on February 2, 2019 in Park City, Utah.

Called “heroic and heartrending” and “a stirring adventure” by The Hollywood Reporter after its Sundance premiere, ‘Sea of Shadows’  is a tense documentary thriller that spotlights a rescue mission to save a collapsing ecosystem and with it, the vaquita – the most endangered and elusive whale on Earth.

In the Sea of Cortez, a war is being waged by Mexican drug cartels and Chinese traffickers. A native species of fish, the totoaba, is being poached at an alarming rate because of a superstitious belief in China that their bladders — more expensive per ounce than gold — possess miraculous healing powers. Nicknamed the “cocaine of the sea,” these extremely rare fish have triggered a multimillion-dollar black market that threatens not only their existence, but virtually all marine life in the region – including the endangered whale known as the vaquita.

Sea of Shadows’  goes inside the fight for survival as a team of brilliant scientists, high-tech conservationists, investigative journalists, undercover agents and the Mexican Navy put their lives on the line to save the last remaining vaquita and bring the vicious international crime syndicate to justice.

“What is happening in Mexico is yet another example of human-caused devastation due to the greed of a few,” said director Richard Ladkani. “My hope is that this film can raise awareness and help save this precious ecosystem.”

“Sundance’s Audience Award is the most precious award I could think of. We produce our films for the audience and the bigger it gets, the better we can make a change – which in this case would mean no more than to save a whole species and the Sea of Cortez,” said Walter Köhler, CEO and Founder of Terra Mater Factual Studios. “This conviction unites us with National Geographic and I am absolutely thrilled to be partnering with them. We have already collaborated several times in our branch of blue-chip nature docs – to bundle our energy and experience now on this special feature film project is the perfect deal.”

Carolyn Bernstein EVP, Global Scripted Content & Documentary Films for National Geographic, said about her newest acquisition: “This film is a high-stakes, edge of your seat thriller that viewers will not be able to ignore.”