In the next century, up to 50 percent of the species on Earth could be lost.

That dire warning comes at the beginning of Academy Award-winning director Louie Psihoyos' new film, "Racing Extinction." It debuted Saturday at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, and will screen three more sold-out shows before the festival ends this weekend.

Dr. Stuart Pimm, a conservation ecologist at Duke University, is one of several scientists featured in the documentary. He says the rate of extinction for species on Earth has sped up significantly: "Each year, about one in a million species should expire naturally. In the next few decades, we’ll be driving species to extinction about a 1,000 times faster."

"Racing Extinction" also features several people trying to slow extinction rates around the world. Shawn Heinrichs is an oceans activist from Boulder. Psihoyos says in the film that Heinrichs, is "doing some of the best, most groundbreaking work to save endangered species that I’ve seen."

That includes his efforts to turn what was formerly a shark hunting ground in Mexico into a tourist area, where Mexican entrepreneurs now facilitate trips for tourists to swim with sharks.

Psihoyos, who heads the Oceanic Preservation Society in Boulder, started working on the film about six years ago, just before his previous film "The Cove" won an Oscar for best documentary.