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Sea of Shadows
by Karen Pecota

Award-winning filmmaker Richard Ladkani specializes in investigative documentaries that are more thrilling to view than your typical Hollywood thriller. Richard has won international acclaim because of his signature-style storytelling: "you-are-there" approach. This gives the audience an immediate connection to his subjects by allowing one to feel the crisis and not just intellectualize it. His expertise as a cinematographer helps to make this style possible and unique.

In 2015, Richard and his wife, Anita, founded Malaika Pictures to produce films that showcase pressing environmental and political issues facing the world today. We will see a feature film in the near future they are developing based on the bestselling book, "City of Thorns", investigating the desperation of life in Dadaab, Kenya, the site of the largest refugee camp in the world. This camp houses a quarter of a million Somali refugees and asylum seekers.

In the meantime, Richard and Anita bring us their latest documentary thriller, Sea of Shadows. They capture a very dangerous rescue mission of the most endangered whale species on Earth known as the vaquita porpoise.

The Mexican drug cartels and the Chinese traffickers of the sea join together to poach a rare totoaba fish in the Sea of Cortez. Native to this body of water, the totoaba are a wanted commodity because of a superstitious belief among some Chinese that their bladders--(which market more per ounce than gold) possess miraculous healing powers. Nicknamed the "cocaine of the sea." In conjunction to gathering the fish, their methods used threaten to destroy a large amount of the marine life in the region and the home of the delicate and endangered vaquita whales. The rarity of the totoaba fish raise the profit stakes within a multimillion-dollar black market.

What happens is when the poachers catch the totoaba, the small sized vaquita get trapped into the huge nets. The Sea of Cortez is the only place where these unique whale species exist and are close to extinction--known to date are about fifteen of the mammals left in this particular ocean water.

To protect the oceanic wildlife in the Sea of Cortez several individuals and groups have come to the rescue: scientists, high-tech conservationists, investigative journalists, courageous undercover agents and the Mexican Navy. This heroic team put their lives on the line daily to save the last remaining vaquita and the ever decreasing totoaba to pursue the international crime players in order to bring them to justice.

Three days after the screening of this film, an emergency call came to the filmmakers that the Sea Shepard patrol ship spots a crew of poachers hauling their catch into a transport boat. Similar escapades are captured on film in the Sea of Shadows to view just how dangerous these pursuits. Once spotted by the patrol ships, the traffickers ditch their nets and immediately flee with the Mexican Navy immediately in hot pursuit of the criminals.

In order to protect of the Sea of Cortez waters and it's marine-life inhabitants the call for help goes out constantly to the varied "eco-warrior" teams...the task is great and the workers are few... but slowly the heroic actions are making a difference.