×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Leonardo DiCaprio-Produced Doc ‘Sea of Shadows’ Takes on Mexican Cartels

Leonardo DiCaprio‘s latest eco-documentary “Sea of Shadows” doesn’t shy away from taking on Mexican cartels.

“For some of the guys there, he is state enemy number one at the moment,” said producer Wolfgang Knöpfler at the documentary’s premiere on Wednesday night at Neuehouse in Los Angeles. “The cartels don’t like him.”

Appian Way and DiCaprio executive produced the National Geographic documentary, which casts a spotlight on the little-known plight of the endangered vaquita, a species of porpoise that has become collateral damage in a poaching crisis raging in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. Mexican crime syndicates have partnered with the Chinese mafia in the illegal fishing of the native totoaba, whose bladders are believed to have miraculous healing powers and fetch prices upwards of $100,000 on the Chinese black market.

Ensnared in nets meant for the totoaba, with their natural habitat decimated, the vaquita numbers have dwindled to less than fifteen. “Sea of Shadows” tracks the efforts of conservation groups, undercover investigators, journalists and the Mexican navy to save the vaquita from extinction and bring down the crime syndicates, while fending off deadly retaliation.

“It was the most dangerous film I’ve ever been involved in,” said director Richard Ladkani, who had previously partnered with DiCaprio on the 2016 Netflix documentary “The Ivory Game.”

He went on to credit DiCaprio for bringing attention to the vaquita. “He really cared about the vaquita and it was one of his ideas to do a movie about it because he wanted to save it,” Ladkani said. “He opened a lot of doors with the government and the president. But his name attached also means so much because the communication of the issue is so important and you need that in order to get people to see the movie.”

Ladkani also acknowledged iconic conservationist Jane Goodall with raising awareness of the documentary. Goodall, who was the subject of Ladkani’s 2010 documentary “Jane’s Journey,” introduced the film in front of the screening’s audience, which included DiCaprio, who quietly slipped in before the showing began.

“Jane is amazing, hosting this and giving us her name and all her reputation as a conservationist,” Ladkani told Variety ahead of the screening. “This is how we can make a difference. When we work together, we are strong.”

Standing beside Ladkani, Goodall said, “That film will be seen by hundreds and hundreds of Mexican people who never knew anything about it. Now they will. There’s hope within the country. Because that’s really where it has to start.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • EL-VERANO-QUE-VIVIMOS-PRESS-CONFERENCE

    Warner Bros. Grabs Atresmedia, Bambú’s 'El verano que vivimos' (EXCLUSIVE)

    SAN SEBASTIAN —    Warner Bros. Pictures Intl. has grabbed near-worldwide distribution rights to “El verano que vivimos,” a romantic melodrama directed by “Fariña” Carlos Sedes and co-produced with Atresmedia Cine, Bambú Producciones and La Claqueta. One of the most awaited local releases of next year, “El verano que vivimos” rolls from August for nine [...]

  • PATRICK

    Watch Trailer to San Sebastian’s ‘Patrick,’ Sold by The Match Factory (EXCLUSIVE)

    SAN SEBASTIAN —  Sales house The Match Factory is launching exclusively via Variety the trailer of “Patrick,” Gonçalo Waddington’s debut feature, as the film world premieres in the Official Selection at the San Sebastian Festival. Screening in main competition, “Patrick” recounts the story of an eight-year old Portuguese boy, Mario, who is re-discovered years later [...]

  • Brad Pitt stars in ONCE UPON

    Quentin Tarantino's 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' Gets Oct. 25 China Release

    Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is scheduled for a China release on Oct. 25, three months after its U.S. debut. The mainland opening will hit after the country’s National Day holiday in the first week of October, which this year marks a key and politically sensitive anniversary — the 70th year of [...]

  • THE-CURSE-OF-THE-HANDSOME-MAN-photo2

    Filmax Acquires International on ‘The Curse of the Handsome Man’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    SAN SEBASTIAN  —  Barcelona-based boutique studio Filmax has acquired international rights to Argentine producer-director Beda Docampo’s “The Curse of the Handsome Man,” produced by Ibón Cormenzana’s Arcadia Motion Pictures alongside Cados Producciones and Damned Besso –based in Spain—in co-production with Cecilia Díez’s Zarlek Producciones (“Medianeras”) in Argentina. The film is backed by Spanish public broadcaster [...]

  • La-mala-familia

    Javi Tasio Talks ECAM Incubator Title ‘La Mala Familia’

    SAN SEBASTIAN  —  Via their BRBR collective, filmmakers Nacho A. Villar and Luis Rojo have directed award winning music videos, and commercias. Now they’ll make the leap to features with “La Mala Familia,” a gritty urban drama set in the outskirts of Madrid. Variety spoke with the film’s producer, Javi Tasio, who developed this project at ECAM’s [...]

  • Charlie-Chaplin-and-Horse-Roy-Export-Co

    Carmen Chaplin to Direct ‘Charlie Chaplin, a Man of the World’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — Director-producer-actress Carmen Chaplin is set to direct “Charlie Chaplin, a Man of the World,” a theatrical documentary feature which will add a hardly-explored new facet to the creator of the Tramp, one of the most iconic cinema characters in popular consciousness, plumbing Chaplin’s Romani roots and heritage. Marking the first time that [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content