As the United Nations review (24-25 September) of the Sustainable Development Goals fast approaches, an Aussie-born indie documentary, The Map to Paradise, prepares for a a nation-wide ‘alternate’ theatrical launch to take place on the same date. 

The filmmakers’ message: global leaders, including in Australia, need to do much more to protect the land and the sea from dangerous climate warming and mass extinction. 

Australia’s largest cinema chain Event Cinemas (including BCC & GU Film House) has picked up The Map to Paradise, by Sydney Northern Beaches-based directors, Danielle Ryan & James Sherwood, to distribute the film nationally, recognising that it is a game-changing moment for environment documentaries. 

Director James Sherwood says the Aussie appetite for these sorts of films is increasing. 

“Our low budget film, which began with just a Kickstarter campaign, has so far had an unusual run - growing organically with the support of communities. 

“ We feel very proud and excited. The film has outperformed our expectations, including playing at over 75 times at festivals and semi-theatrical screenings, proving its worth with grassroots audiences, so that now it is in the hands of a mainstream cinema.”

The Map to Paradise is an adventure-filled tale about the birth of the global movement to protect the sea, and has involved internationally acclaimed leaders, such as Prince Albert II of Monaco, National Geographic Enric Sala, and the President of Palau Tommy Remengesau, as well as Australian-born Emmy Award-winning composer Daniel Clive McCallum. 

“We are also lucky to have the film endorsed by a  multiple award-winning Hollywood Actor,” said James.

At the time of The Map to Paradise’s debut at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, the crew members had a unique opportunity to host a private viewing with Hollywood Actor Martin Sheen, who has subsequently lent his name as an Executive Producer - giving his endorsement of the documentary. 

Danielle said that the urgency of protecting the last wild areas on the planet is still a niche topic and that she and James are doing everything they can to do their small part to help make it more mainstream. 

“Currently, global leaders have only committed to protecting 10 per cent of the land and the sea by 2020.

“However, the international scientific community says that we need to protect at least a third of the land and the sea by 2030, to help save ourselves from dangerous climate warming and mass extinction.” 

Danielle was a Youth Ambassador at the Sydney World Parks Congress (2014), which was organised by the IUCN - the same global body which is advocating to lift global targets. 

“Ever since that time of my life, I have made it my mission to educate and spread awareness about this critical issue - all living creatures, including humans, depend on making sure we set wild areas aside, untouched by humans. 

“Australia has one of the largest ocean territories in the world. We have the science and the resources to care for it. We were once world leaders in conservation. 

“However, we are now falling behind. Australia is leading the world with the removal of conservation areas. We are also leading the way with mammal extinction rates. 

“When I first learned about what was happening in my home country, I really struggled to understand ‘why’. Growing up, I always believed that once something is protected, it stays protected forever. 

“So, I hope that Australians take a moment to reflect on our present political and cultural attitudes towards nature in the lead up to the review of the SDGs. We want to use the film to encourage communities to ask - what sort of legacy do we want to leave behind not just for ourselves but for the world?

“We urgently need more local and national leaders to step up as role models in this movement to #RestoreParadise & #KeepPlacesWild, as shown in The Map to Paradise. 

“Whether it be island chiefs, Hollywood Actors, scientists, lawmakers, global leaders or committed  people of all ages and pursuits, we can restore paradise, looking after the last beautiful wild places on Earth, if we all work together. 

“I can feel a change. I do believe we can get there. Just look at how far this film with its message to #KeepPlacesWild has come. 

“We never would have dreamt that Prince Albert II of Monaco or Australia’s largest cinema chain would have been a part of this indie film, when we first began filming years ago - or that Australian coastal and inland communities would really cherish and embrace this film.”

The Today Show’s Richard Wilkin also rated the film 4 stars out of five early this year.

The directors have travelled with the film nation-wide, joined by local experts to speak at Q&As about ‘keeping places wild’ after the film. See a list of upcoming local Q&As in the attachment below.



Q&A with Marine Scientist Dr. Ben Fitzpatrick, who championed the creation of a Mission Blue Hope Spot for Ningaloo Reef & the Exmouth Gulf. 


Q&A on ‘keeping places wild’ with Laura Hahn, National Parks Association Queensland & Professor Justin Marshall, Chief Investigator, Coral Watch / University of Queensland 


Q&A on ‘keeping places wild’ with Professor Garry Russ, Marine Biologist, James Cook University & John Day, Phd Candidate James Cook University. Co-hosted with Plastic Free Townsville. 


Co-Hosted with Plastic Free Bronte & National Parks Association NSW.  Q&A with David Stead, President of National Parks Association NSW, about the urgent need to protect the sea in NSW. 


Q&A on ‘keeping places wild’ with Stefanie Fishel, Lecturer - Environmental Politics, University of the Sunshine Coast


Q&A on ‘keeping places wild’ with Dr. Norm Duke, Mangrove Ecologist, Mangrove Watch / James Cook University & Jaime Kruusmaa, Reef Check. 


Q&A with Hans Ullrich, PADI Asia Pacific, who has an interesting story to share about helping to set up Palau’s national enforcement activities of its marine sanctuary. 


Q&A on ‘keeping places wild’ with Shar Molloy, Director, Environment Centre NT + retired commercial fisherman Lloyd Beck + James Fowler, Australian Marine Conservation Society. 


Q&A on ‘keeping places wild’ with the filmmakers & local ocean anti-plastics campaigner, Vanessa Heffernan of Untrashy.


Q&A with Professor Rob Fowler, Environment Law, University of South Australia & Dr. Cristian Monaco, Marine Scientist, University of Adelaide, on the importance of protecting the sea & the idea of creating an Oceans Act for Australia. 


Q&A on ‘keeping places wild’ with Stephan Soule, Community Outreach & Education Program Manager, Southern Cross University.


Co-hosted on ‘keeping places wild’ with SO Shire, Sutherland Shire Environment Centre & National Parks Association NSW. Q&A with oceans campaigner, Sarah-Jo Lobwein from SO Shire, and Sharnie Connell, an ocean campaigner from the Northern Beaches +Dr Martin Puchert, Underwater Research Group of NSW.


Q&A on ‘keeping places wild’ with Bret Heath & John McGrath, The Capricorn Coast Local Marine Advisory Committee