Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Whale of a Controversy

When I went to SeaWorld as a kid, the only thing I remember was that I really wanted to sit in the splash zone.  For some reason, getting doused by whale-inhabited water was the highest my ambition climbed.  Like most children, I never thought about how a whale or dolphin would feel about swimming in a bathtub and entertaining the masses ten times a day.  I forgot all about orca whales in my adult life until, in 2010, a SeaWorld trainer was killed by a whale named Tilikum, a bull orca who has lived in captivity for the majority of his life.  Tilikum's behavior is the focus of the new documentary, Blackfish, and I am anxious to see it. 

Blackfish, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, focuses primarily on Tilikum's captivity.  The orca whale has killed three people, but the most publicized death was when he killed trainer Dawn Brancheau in front of an audience.  Cowperthwaite became interested in the capture and training of whales and wanted to make Blackfish because she wanted to see if there was "more to the story" than Brancheau getting her ponytail caught in Tilikum's mouth. 

Blackfish debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and it was quickly snatched up for distribution.  The film has received quite positive notices.  It currently holds a perfect score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with the top critics.  In their review, NPR said, "Its argument never fails to be gripping, its structure perfect executed to maximize its persuasiveness."  The film has already nabbed up European distributors. 

SeaWorld, however, went on the offensive when the movie was released.  An email was sent out to over 50 critics with the subject line,  "A dishonest movie," and breaks down the movie's alleged inaccuracies.  Fred Jacobs, SeaWorld's Vice President of Communications and sender of said email, claims that no animal has been captured for SeaWorld in over 35 years.  He questions waaaay more than that, and the film responds to each of Jacobs' comments.  You can read them all on Blackfish's official website here

I am interested no matter what.  The trailer alone sold me when I saw it weeks ago.  Will you be taking your kids to SeaWorld next time you plan a summer vacation?  Check out the trailer below:

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