July 2019—
3:00 pm—6:00 pm

Philanthropy New York
320 East 43rd Street, NYC

This is a funder-only gathering.


Media Impact Funders, Philanthropy New York and the Environmental Grantmakers Association invite you to a special screening and discussion of the award-winning film Sea of Shadows, that follows undercover investigators, environmentalists, journalists and the Mexican Navy on their last minute effort to rescue the Earth’s smallest Whale — the Vaquita– from extinction.

After the screening, we’ll engage in a conversation with a panel about the film, the environmental effects that extinction can have on the eco-system, and the impact campaign. The campaign aims to save the vaquita from imminent extinction, secure the environmental integrity of the Upper Gulf of the Sea of Cortez (a UNESCO World Heritage site) through increased social and economic opportunities for the local communities, and increase global awareness of the links between wildlife trafficking and global security threats.

Sea of Shadows, a Sundance Film Festival Audience Award winner, follows efforts to save the rare whale species known as the vaquita porpoise. Native totoaba fish in the Sea of Cortez are being illegally overfished because of a belief among some in China that their bladders possess healing powers. The deadly methods of harvesting totoaba, undertaken by forces including cartels and corrupt institutions, threaten to destroy virtually all marine life in the region, including the extremely rare vaquita porpoise. A team of scientists, high-tech conservationists, investigative journalists and undercover agents put their lives on the line to save the last remaining vaquita.

The film will make its theatrical premiere on July 12 across the US, just a week before this screening. This is a special opportunity for funders to see the film and talk to the makers.


  • How philanthropy and the field can consider how to both protect species and sustainable livelihoods for communities in an interdependent and increasingly global world economy
  • The role funders can play in shifting the narrative around environmental issues
  • How to create film campaigns that mirror the fundamentals of issue campaigning
  • The role independent filmmakers can play in fostering greater understanding of pressing social issues


  • Kaitlin Yarnall, (moderator) Chief Storytelling Officer and Senior Vice President for the National Geographic Society
  • Ru Mahoney, Impact Producer, Sea of Shadows
  • Dr. Cynthia Smith, Executive Director, National Marine Mammal Foundation, and primary subject of the film


This screening and discussion is part of our collaborative film series with Philanthropy New York. If you are a foundation or a philanthropy-serving organization (PSO) that would like to collaborate on a panel, workshop, webinar, screening, or simply need help connecting with a speaker, we want to hear from you. Learn more about our collaborative events.