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Sea of Shadows

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Austria, Australia, Germany · 2019
Rated PG-13 · 1h 46m
Director Richard Ladkani
Genre Documentary

The vaquita, the world’s smallest whale, is nearing extinction as Mexican cartels and the Chinese Mafia destroy its habitat in order to harvest the totoaba fish, known as the “cocaine of the sea.” Environmental activists, the Mexican navy, and undercover investigators are fighting back against this illegal multimillion-dollar business.

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What are critics saying?


Austin Chronicle by

Paradoxical as it might seem, this planet suffering from human activity requires even more human activity if there’s any hope of saving it. National Geographic documentary Sea of Shadows is hell-bent on reminding us of that fact.


Paste Magazine by Amy Glynn

Ladkani’s camerawork is agile and sleek, and the editing is super-sound, so even with a complicated web of crime, corruption, socioeconomic tension, multiple languages, blurred-out faces and folks who operate in the dark, it’s easy to follow.


Slant Magazine by Chris Barsanti

Richard Ladkani’s Sea of Shadows, which bristles with drama and a panicky sense of righteous anger, uses the potential extinction of one little-known species of whale to symbolize a far larger and potentially globe-spanning problem.


Variety by Guy Lodge

Told with straightforward investigative nous and a judicious teardrop of anguished sentimentality, the film makes a virtue of its many clashing participants: journalists, scientists, activists, navy officials and fishermen, each with a slightly different stance on the matter.


The Guardian by Peter Bradshaw

It is heartfelt, but its periodic attempts at thriller-style bouts of excitement are redundant, and I wondered sometimes if the film-makers were sure what exactly their story was.