'Blackfish' documentary dives into killer whale captivity

Thu Jul 18, 2013 5:58pm EDT
 
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By Zorianna Kit

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Gabriela Cowperthwaite was a mom who took her kids to SeaWorld when the death of a killer whale trainer at one of the marine parks sparked her latest filmmaking project.

The documentary "Blackfish" was originally conceived without a point of view as Cowperthwaite set out to answer the question of why a top trainer at SeaWorld became the victim of the killer whale with which she worked and performed.

The resulting film that opens in movie theaters on Friday, however, turned out to be a critical look at the consequences of keeping killer whales in captivity.

SeaWorld has launched its own campaign to challenge the criticism of "Blackfish," which has drawn comparisons to the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary "The Cove" about the killing of dolphins in Japan, a film embraced by animal activists.

In a statement released this week, SeaWorld accused the film of painting "a distorted picture" of its facility, calling it "inaccurate and misleading," as well as exploiting "a tragedy that remains a source of deep pain for Dawn Brancheau's family, friends and colleagues."

Brancheau was killed in 2010 by the great orca, Tilikum, at SeaWorld in Orlando. Although reports differ as to how exactly she was pulled under the water, the autopsy report revealed she died of drowning and blunt force trauma.

"Blackfish" traces the life of Tilikum, who has been performing for 30 years since he was captured in 1983 around the age of 2.

"The Hollywood Reporter" described "Blackfish" as "emotionally powerful," "harrowing" and "a damning indictment of the SeaWorld theme park franchise."   Continued...

 
Tillikum, a killer whale at SeaWorld amusement park, performs during the show "Believe" in Orlando in this September 3, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger/Files