Private Project

Guardians of the Gulf

The Gulf of Mexico has long been affected by hurricanes, oil spills, overfishing, and agricultural run-off, but continues to support one of the most biodiverse ecosystems, with over 15,000 species. This resilience is tenuous because—like any relationship—only so much can be taken without giving back.

In Guardians of the Gulf, the Gulf of Mexico is given a voice by her caretakers to tell a story of generosity and strength. These conservationists, fisherpeople, tour operators, chefs, and student leaders strive to improve sustainability in their work and community. Through action, they are seeing change. Through this change, they see hope.

  • Cait Martin Newnham
    Pandora's Box: Lifting the Lid on Menstruation, Filter
  • Ulla Laidlow
  • Aine Corby
  • Jenny Williams
  • Carter Pinkowski
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Genres:
    Documentary, Nature, Sustainability
  • Runtime:
    30 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    March 20, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    80,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
    Mexico, United States
  • Language:
    English, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Cait Martin Newnham, Ulla Laidlow

Cait Martin Newnham

Cait Martin Newnham is a director, writer and producer specializing in documentary films and branded content. She produced Pandora’s Box: Lifting the Lid on Menstruation, an award-winning documentary about the global menstrual movement. The film premiered at the 2019 Whistler Film Festival and the 2020 Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

After pursuing a Master’s of Journalism, Cait’s first documentary film, Filter, about Instagram influencers was bought by Bell Media. Cait is currently working on narrative and documentary projects.

Ulla Laidlaw

Ulla Laidlaw is a Toronto-based filmmaker, focusing on environmental filmmaking both in practice and content. She is currently developing Under the Concrete with Charles Street Video, a curated program of Engaged Environmental Filmmaking that connects filmmakers with the land and water in Toronto as a first impulse in narrative filmmaking practice. Her most recent documentary Time Machine, follows Radix Theatre’s 5 hour yacht trip exploring the past, present and future of traditional unceded Tsleil-Watuth First Nation’s territory waters, while directing remotely in a carbon-cutting filmmaking practice. She is pleased to be a part of the collaborative team of Guardians of the Gulf, and to have an opportunity to honour the people who live, work and play in this precious body of water.

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Director Statement

While learning about the Gulf of Mexico and its recent history, Ulla and I found ourselves overwhelmed by the depth of its tragedies and their impact. But then we met the incredible people of the Gulf and we quickly acknowledged that a story of hopelessness didn’t fit. We wanted to reflect the strength and resilience of the Gulf in the film’s narrative to give the ecosystem a voice to inspire action and hope.

While we were making Guardians of the Gulf, we fell in love with the Gulf of Mexico. She emerged quickly as a character who is generous, adaptable and powerful. The Gulf gives life and a route for migration to over 15,000 species, and provides humans with food, income and protection from natural disasters. Her reach is far, and her plight is symbolic of the global climate crisis.

We filmed with the Gulf’s tireless guardians over eight days in Texas, Alabama and Veracruz. Their voices ebb and flow throughout the narrative, moving with the tide of every advance towards sustainability and retreat with each disaster. The guardians show that action can result in tangible change, and this change inspires hope. With hope, more people are motivated to take action, and the wave of sustainability continues to swell.

This documentary welcomes the pace of the water, and to reflect this dynamic tone, we filmed characters in motion as they interacted with their environment and we introduced camera movement through handheld setups. Our female-led crew embraced the cold and rainy shoot days in Alabama, the lashing wind in Veracruz and the sunny skies in Texas to visualize the dynamism of the Gulf of Mexico.

We wrapped production feeling motivated to do something. The people fighting to protect the Gulf inspired confidence in our ability to make change happen. I hope that this film inspires curious minds to learn how they can act locally to impact global sustainability.