Richard Ladkani’s feature-length wildlife documentary Sea of Shadows, from National Geographic Documentary Films, leads this year’s Wildscreen Panda Award nominees.
The 2020 Panda Awards — which recognize the “human endeavor, commitment and unique skill” needed to tell nature’s stories — are focused on the craft and impact upon audiences.
Ladkani’s 105-minute film (pictured), which held its world premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival where it took home the Audience Award in the world cinema documentary category, picked up four nominations out of the nine film categories, including the editing, music, producer/director and sound categories.
Sea of Shadows follows environmental activists, the Mexican navy and undercover investigators as they attempt to save the last of the world’s 30 remaining vaquitas – the world’s smallest whale – while fighting back against an international crime syndicate.
Silverback Films, meanwhile, secured five nominations across the board and is the most nominated production company this year. The Bristol-based studio has been nominated in the scripted narrative category for David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet, the cinematography category for Our Planet: One Planet, the editing category for Disneynature Penguins, and the music category for Disneynature Penguins and Dancing with the Birds.
The BBC Studios Natural History Unit follows closely behind Silverback with four nods of its own, taking nominations in the production team category (Earth from Space: A New Perspective), series category (Dynasties & Seven Worlds, One Planet) and cinematography category (Dynasties: Chimpanzee).
“Across all categories and juries, a clear message from within the industry emerged – at a time when the natural world and the human race are under pressure from global events, our films and teams need to have purpose beyond entertainment,” said Jeff Wilson, chair of the Panda Awards Nomination Jury, in a statement. “Consistently the juries voted for the films that not only had a creative voice but also that left an indelible impact on audiences. The overwhelming consensus was now, more than ever, our films have to stand above the parapets and be part of the global conversation on the future of our planet.”
Alongside the craft awards, Wildscreen also introduced two new categories this year, recognizing the talent of individuals and teams, with best producer/director and production team.
Nominated in the producer/director field are Richard Ladkani, Walter Köhler and Wolfgang Knöpfler for Sea of Shadows; Craig Foster, Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed for My Octopus Teacher; and Bonné de Bod and Susan Scott for Stroop.
In the production team category, BBC Studios Natural History Unit, PBS and The Open University were nominated for Earth from Space: A New Perspective; GULO Film Productions and Doclights GmbH / NDR Naturfilm were nominated for Lost Kings of Bioko; and Plimsoll Productions was nominated for Night on Earth: Dusk till Dawn.
The winners will be announced on Oct. 22 at the Panda Awards Celebration, during the first-ever virtual edition of the Wildscreen Festival, moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The full list of 2020 Wildscreen Panda Award nominees can be accessed here.
Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute