Blackfish (film)

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Blackfish
Black-and-white picture of an orca (killer whale) with the title Blackfish and credits underneath
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGabriela Cowperthwaite
Produced byManuel V. Oteyza
Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Written byGabriela Cowperthwaite
Eli Despres
Tim Zimmermann
Music byJeff Beal
CinematographyJonathan Ingalls
Christopher Towey
Editing byEli Despres
StudioCNN Films
Manny O. Productions
Distributed byMagnolia Pictures
Release dates
  • January 19, 2013 (2013-01-19) (Sundance)
  • July 19, 2013 (2013-07-19) (United States)
Running time83 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Box office$2,073,582[1]
 
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Blackfish
Black-and-white picture of an orca (killer whale) with the title Blackfish and credits underneath
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGabriela Cowperthwaite
Produced byManuel V. Oteyza
Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Written byGabriela Cowperthwaite
Eli Despres
Tim Zimmermann
Music byJeff Beal
CinematographyJonathan Ingalls
Christopher Towey
Editing byEli Despres
StudioCNN Films
Manny O. Productions
Distributed byMagnolia Pictures
Release dates
  • January 19, 2013 (2013-01-19) (Sundance)
  • July 19, 2013 (2013-07-19) (United States)
Running time83 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Box office$2,073,582[1]

Blackfish is a 2013 documentary directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite. The film premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival on January 19, 2013, and was picked up by Magnolia Pictures and CNN Films for wider release.[2]

Blackfish focuses on Tilikum, an orca held by SeaWorld, and the controversy over captive killer whales.[3]

Synopsis[edit]

The documentary[4] focuses on the captivity of Tilikum, a killer whale involved in the deaths of three individuals, and the consequences of keeping killer whales in captivity. The coverage of Tilikum includes his capture in 1983 off the coast of Iceland, purported harassment by fellow captive whales at Sealand of the Pacific, incidents that Cowperthwaite argues contributed to the whale's aggression and includes testimonial from Lori Marino, Director of Science with Nonhuman Rights Project. Cowperthwaite also focuses on SeaWorld's claims that lifespans of whales in captivity are comparable to those in the wild,[5] typically 30 years for males and 50 years for females,[6] a claim the film argues is false.[3] Interview subjects also include former SeaWorld trainers, such as

Development[edit]

Cowperthwaite began work on the film after the death of Tilikum's trainer Dawn Brancheau and in response to the claim that the whale had targeted the trainer because she had worn her hair in a ponytail.[7] Cowperthwaite argued that this claim had been conjecture and that "there had to be more to this story".[7]

Reception and response[edit]

The review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes said 98% of 94 critics gave the film a positive review, with the site's consensus stating, "Blackfish is an aggressive, impassioned documentary that will change the way you look at performance killer whales."[8] The Deseret News called it "a gripping example of documentary filmmaking at its finest".[9] At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 83 based on 33 reviews.[10]

After the film's release, former SeaWorld trainer Bridgette Pirtle said the final film was "a complete ‘180’ from what was originally presented to me."[11] Mark Simmons, one of Tilikum's first trainers, believed few of his interview comments were used "[b]ecause the things I said flew in the face of the movie’s clear agenda. What I contributed did not support Gabriela or Tim Zimmerman’s intent with the film.”[12]

SeaWorld Entertainment refused to take part in the production of Blackfish, and later claimed the film was inaccurate,[13] saying in a statement:

Blackfish ... is inaccurate and misleading and, regrettably, exploits a tragedy .... [T]he film paints a distorted picture that withholds ...key facts about SeaWorld—among them...that SeaWorld rescues, rehabilitates and returns to the wild hundreds of wild animals every year, and that SeaWorld commits millions of dollars annually to conservation and scientific research.[14]

SeaWorld responded further with an open letter rebutting the claims.[5] The Oceanic Preservation Society and The Orca Project, a non-profit focusing on orca in captivity, responded with open letters criticizing SeaWorld's claims.[15][16] Marine researcher Debbie Giles also offered rebuttals to SeaWorld, finding its assertions inaccurate.[17] SeaWorld also created a section of its website titled "The Truth About Blackfish".[18] Cowperthwaite responded with rebuttals to the website's claims and challenged SeaWorld to a public debate.[19]

In January 2014, the family of the late trainer Dawn Brancheau said neither it nor the foundation named after her were affiliated with the film, and that they did not believe it accurately reflected Brancheau or her experiences.[20]

On February 27, 2014, SeaWorld filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor, claiming the Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigator who investigated Brancheau's death had behaved unethically by aiding the filmmakers. Cowperthwaite denied claims of improper collaboration.[21]

Impact[edit]

The ending to the upcoming animated film Finding Dory was revised after Pixar's John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton saw the film and spoke with director Gabriela Cowperthwaite. The depiction of a marine park in the film was altered.[22]

Reaction to the documentary prompted the bands and singers Heart, Barenaked Ladies, Willie Nelson, Martina McBride, .38 Special, Cheap Trick, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, The Beach Boys, Trace Adkins and Trisha Yearwood to cancel their concerts at the "Bands, Brew & BBQ" event at SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa in 2014.[23][24][25][26][26]

SeaWorld announced afterward it had suffered a $15.9 million loss, which CEO James Atchison attributed in part to high ticket prices and poor weather.[27]

Overall attendance at SeaWorld parks and Busch Gardens declined by 5% in the first nine months of 2013, though it was unclear if the drop in attendance was due to the influence of the film.[21] SeaWorld claimed that attendance figures for the last three months of 2013 rebounded to record levels.[21]

In response to the film, senator Greg Ball proposed legislation in New York that ban keeping orca in captivity.[28] In March 2014, assemblyman Richard Bloom introduced the Orca Welfare and Safety Act, a bill in California that would ban entertainment-driven killer whale captivity and retire all current whales.[29]

Home media[edit]

Blackfish was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on August 26, 2013 in the UK (Region 2, PAL).[citation needed] Its US release was on November 12, 2013.[citation needed]

The documentary was broadcast on CNN on October 24, 2013.[22] After the broadcast, CNN aired an Anderson Cooper special with Jack Hanna, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Naomi Rose and Jack Hurley. This was followed by a special edition of Crossfire with Blackfish associate producer Tim Zimmermann debating Grey Stafford, a conservationist, zoologist, and member of the International Marine Animal Trainers Association.

The documentary aired on BBC Four in the UK on November 21, 2013 as part of the Storyville documentary series.[30]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Blackfish (2013)". Box Office Mojo. October 24, 2013. Retrieved November 23, 2013. 
  2. ^ Kaufman, Amy (February 1, 2013). "‘Blackfish’ has SeaWorld in hot water". Jacksonville Daily News. Retrieved February 13, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "'Blackfish' has SeaWorld in hot water". Los Angeles Times. January 25, 2013. Retrieved February 13, 2013. 
  4. ^ French, Philip (July 27, 2013). "Blackfish – review". The Observer (UK). Retrieved March 9, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "SeaWorld: The Truth Is in Our Parks and People. An Open Letter from SeaWorld’s Animal Advocates". SeaWorld. Retrieved December 26, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Killer Whale (Orcinus orca)". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Protected Fisheries. Retrieved December 26, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Kohn, Eric (January 26, 2013). "Sundance Interview: 'Blackfish' Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite Discusses Suffering Orcas, Trainer Death, and Why SeaWorld Hasn't Seen the Movie". IndieWire. Retrieved February 13, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Blackfish". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 23, 2013. 
  9. ^ Peterson, Jeff (January 24, 2013). "Sundance review: 'Blackfish' is an alarming film". Deseret News. Retrieved February 13, 2013. 
  10. ^ Blackfish at Metacritic
  11. ^ Davis, Eric (January 9, 2014). "Blackfish Exposed by Former SeaWorld Trainer". MiceChat.com. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  12. ^ Davis, Eric (January 13, 2014). "More Blackfish Backlash – Tilikum’s Trainer Dives In". MiceChat.com. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  13. ^ Pat Saperstein (July 18, 2013). "SeaWorld: Killer Whale Doc ‘Blackfish’ Is ‘Inaccurate’". Variety. Retrieved November 30, 2013. 
  14. ^ "SeaWorld responds to questions about captive orcas, 'Blackfish' film". CNN. October 21, 2013. Retrieved October 23, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Marine Mammal Captivity: The Truth Is in the Facts An Open Letter from the Informed American Public". Oceanic Preservation Society. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  16. ^ tCostanzo, Amy. "An Open Letter BACK to SeaWorld". The Orca Project. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  17. ^ "SeaWorld Is So Pissed Over the Blackfish Documentary". Gawker.com. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  18. ^ Parker, Kolten. "SeaWorld posts videos in response to 'Blackfish' documentary". Retrieved February 17, 2014 Retrieved February 19, 2014. 
  19. ^ "Blackfish Director Challenges SeaWorld to Debate". EcoWatch. Retrieved March 7, 2014. 
  20. ^ Garcia, Jason (January 21, 2014). "Family of Dawn Brancheau chastises 'Blackfish'". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved January 23, 2014. 
  21. ^ a b c Cieply, Michael (February 27, 2014). "SeaWorld Questions Ethics of ‘Blackfish’ Investigator". The New York Times. Retrieved March 7, 2014. 
  22. ^ a b Kaufman, Amy (August 9, 2013). "'Blackfish' gives Pixar second thoughts on 'Finding Dory' plot". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 9, 2013. 
  23. ^ Ahmed, Saeed. "Heart cancels SeaWorld show amid 'Blackfish' controversy". Retrieved December 27, 2013. 
  24. ^ Duke, Alan. "Martina McBride, 38 Special, cancel SeaWorld gig over 'Blackfish' backlash". CNN. Retrieved December 27, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Beach Boys, Benatar Cancel at Busch Gardens". The New York Times. Associated Press. January 16, 2014. Retrieved January 20, 2014. 
  26. ^ a b Gibson, Megan (December 11, 2013). "The Documentary Blackfish Is Still Creating Waves at SeaWorld". Time. 
  27. ^ Stock, Kyle (August 29, 2013). "SeaWorld's Slump Raises a Question: Is Shamu Too Sad, or Too Expensive?". Bloomberg Businessweek. 
  28. ^ "Sign The Petition To End The Torture". Nysenate.gov. Archived from the original on March 7, 2014. Retrieved March 7, 2014. 
  29. ^ Michael, Martinez. "California bill would ban orca shows at SeaWorld". CNN. Retrieved March 7, 2014. 
  30. ^ "Storyville: Blackfish - The Whale That Killed". BBC. November 21, 2013. Retrieved November 22, 2013. "The story of a killer whale who has taken the lives of several people while in captivity" 

External links[edit]