On October 30th, we were invited for a special screening of two national geographic documentaries: “Lost and Found” and “Sea of Shadows”.
Lost and Found
“Lost and Found” follows Kamal Hussein, a refugee from Myanmar. Like 700,000 thousand other Rohingya refugees escaping the military campaigns in Myanmar, Kamal fled to Bangladesh as a child. While fleeing, Kamal was separated from his parents and never saw them again. Kamal grew up alone, spending the next 20+ years in this camp in Bangladesh. One day, he found a young girl who was lost. She had been separated from her mother and didn’t know where to go. Kamal stayed with her and looked all over the camp to find her mother. He took a megaphone and started walking the streets, calling out for this girl’s mother. After searching for some time, he finally found her mother and reunited them. The mother told him that from that day on, she would consider him as her own son. He felt relief knowing he was able to help but also filled with
purpose. He knew that so many children in the camps are suffering the same way he did all those years ago. So, he contacted the UN and got some supplies. A microphone, miles of wires, and some speakers. He set up a small shack and got to work. Any parent with a lost child or a lost child themselves can come to the booth and Kamal will use his microphone setup to broadcast missing person’s reports in hopes the right people will hear them. He also travels through the camp, asking locals if they’ve seen the child or parent and where they were heading. Kamal has been able to reunite hundreds of families after opening his booth, but sometimes that just isn’t possible. The unfortunate reality is, these refugees are escaping an ethnic cleansing campaign in Myanmar, and many don’t make it out alive. Regardless, Kamal does his best to return these kids to safety.
This film, albeit short, is incredibly powerful. Kamal’s story is a beautiful one to highlight and shows just how much of a difference one person can make. Seeing these innocent little kids cry for their parents as Kamal sits with them, being the small light of hope in this dark point in their lives is simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming. In the 22-minute runtime of the film, you’re fully confident that these kids are in good hands. I highly recommend checking out this film wherever you can!
Sea of Shadows
Between Baja California and mainland Mexico lies the Sea of Cortez. There, the rare species of fish called Totoaba resides. In China, specifically among the rich elderly population, the bladder of the Totoaba fish is said to have medicinal value and are willing to pay any price to have them. So, Mexican drug cartels and Chinese traffickers have joined forces to illegally poach these fish and sell them to customers in China for hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece. To catch these fish, fishermen cast wide nets into the water in hopes of catching an elusive Totoaba fish. The terrible side-effect of this method is that the net is indiscriminate, entangling and killing any fish and marine life that crosses its path. One of those fish is the Vaquita Porpoise, an extremely endangered species with only between 9 and 14 left on the planet.
“Sea of Shadows” follows several different people, from veterinarians and environmentalists to investigative journalists and undercover agents, doing their part to save the Vaquita and stop the illegal trafficking taking place. The film is surprisingly gripping and keeps you at the edge of your seat. The entire situation is an intricate web of these different people attacking the problem from all different sides. On the front lines, Sea Shepard, a ship whose sole purpose is to intercept small boats that are casting nets into the sea at night and cut them, releasing any fish that managed to survive. The film follows one crew member, Jack Hutton, a drone operator who tracks down these small boats and identifies what they are doing using night-sight cameras. These people are the direct protectors of marine life in the sea and the defense against the illegal poachers. Additionally, Dr. Cynthia Smith is the program manager for VaquitaCPR, a group that is trying to conserve the vaquita population by trying to bring them to protected areas. On the mainland, undercover agent Andrea Costa investigated the cartel and trafficking operation, finding out who was smuggling the Totoaba bladders out of Mexico and into China. Investigative journalist Carlos Loret de Mola exposed the leader of the cartel and brought widespread awareness to the emergency in Mexico. Following all of these angles culminated in a truly fascinating movie.
It’s horrible seeing the damage these poachers have to the sea. Known as the “aquarium of the world”, the Sea of Cortez has been decimated by the nets of these poachers. There is a particularly heartbreaking scene in the film when the crew of Sea Shepard pulled up a poacher’s net and hundreds of dead fish fell out, none of which were the Totoaba. Then, a large turtle is dragged up from the net, barely alive and completely entangled in the plastic wire. By the time the crew members were able to cut the turtle out, it was already dead. “I’ve had to crawl through 4,000 carcasses with my crew of dead animals,” said Jack Hutton after the screening, “My first day at Sea Shepard I had to crawl through sixteen dead baby sea lions. Day one, welcome to Sea Shepard.” Furthermore, the film highlights how the cartel was able to pay off many police personnel, allowing the poachers to operate with little to no resistance from the police and hindering any progress in stopping them. These shots and showing this reality truly puts the situation into perspective and why it has been so hard for these people to make any progress.
Since the events of the film, the situation has changed for the better. The Chinese traffickers have been caught and the market in China has been severely cracked down upon. Oscar Parra, the leader of the cartel has been taken into custody and the Mexican government has vowed to focus a larger effort in protecting the marine life in the Sea of Cortez. However, the cartel has not been fully dismantled. Poachers are still casting nets in the sea to get Totoabas and the Vaquita are still endangered. “I think this is something very clear; support the organizations that are doing the job,” said Carlos Loret de Mola after the screening, “support Sea Shepard, support Earth League International. Help a little bit with this. And talk about it, make a conversation.” The film is making rounds right now with screenings playing in several locations in the US and UK, so definitely check this film out. Additionally, you can visit the films’ website to see how you can help.