×
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

  • Soho House

    Soho House Lands In Downtown Los Angeles

    Warner Music, Spotify and Lyft are poised to welcome a new neighbor to downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District with Soho Warehouse, the third California outpost of the Hollywood-loved members-only club — and the largest North American opening to date. Hot on the heels of the Soho House Hong Kong debut earlier this summer, the private [...]

  • Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider'

    Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider' Gets a Concert/Screening Premiere at Radio City

    In a year full of major 50th anniversary commemorations — from Woodstock to the moon landing — why not one for “Easy Rider,” Dennis Hopper’s hippie-biker flick that was released on July 14, 1969? That was the idea when a rep for Peter Fonda, who starred in the film as the laid-back Captain America, reached out [...]

  • Costa Gavras

    Costa-Gavras and Cast on Nationality, Identity, and Cinema

    SAN SEBASTIAN  —  Though he’s been based in Paris since 1955 and came up through the French film industry, director Costa-Gavras has never forgotten his roots. “Those who are born Greek,” said the Peloponnese-born filmmaker at a Saturday press conference,  “stay Greek all their lives.” The once-and-always Greek was not just in San Sebastian to [...]

  • Lorene Scafaria, Jennifer Lopez. Lorene Scafaria,

    'Hustlers' Director Lorene Scafaria: 'We Wanted to Treat It Like a Sports Movie'

    The star-studded cast of “Hustlers” didn’t just become strippers in the empowering female-helmed blockbuster — they also became athletes. When speaking to “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s movie podcast, at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month, “Hustlers” director Lorene Scafaria explained the extreme athleticism required of the movie’s leading actresses, who all had [...]

  • Jonathan Van NessLos Angeles Beautycon, Portrait

    Jonathan Van Ness Reveals HIV Diagnosis, Former Drug Addiction

    “Queer Eye’s” Jonathan Van Ness is getting vulnerable in his new memoir “Over the Top.” In a preview of his book with the New York Times, Van Ness opened up about his early struggles with sex and drug addiction as well as his experience with sexual assault, revealing that he was abused by an older [...]

  • 4127_D022_00003_RC(l-r.) Elizabeth McGovern stars as Lady

    Box Office: 'Downton Abbey' Dominating 'Ad Astra,' 'Rambo' With $31 Million Opening

    “Downton Abbey” is heading for a positively brilliant opening weekend after scoring $13.8 million in domestic ticket sales on Friday. If estimates hold, the feature film version of the popular British television show should take home approximately $31 million come Sunday, marking the biggest opening ever for distributor Focus Features and beating previous record holder [...]

  • Gully Boy to represent India in

    'Gully Boy' to Represent India In Oscars Race

    The Film Federation of India has chosen Zoya Akhtar’s “Gully Boy” as its entry in the Academy Awards’ international feature film category. The picture, a coming of age tale about an aspiring rapper in Mumbai’s Dharavi slum premiered at the Berlin film festival in February before opening to a wave of acclaim at home in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content