Gabriela Cowperthwaite, John Hargrove, John Jett, Carol Ray, Jeffrey Ventre, Samantha Berg, Mark Simmons | 2013 | 80 min.
2014 Official Selection
Dawn Brancheau, a veteran trainer at the well-known Orlando, Florida water park Sea World, lost her life when she was attacked by Tilikum, a bull orca (or “killer whale”) weighing ten thousand pounds who was a regular attraction at the park. What made the incident all the more disturbing was this was not the first time Tilikum had turned on one of his trainers, and that the orca had caused the death of a trainer in 1991 before he was purchased by Sea World. While orcas will sometimes attack humans in captivity, such incidents are extremely rare in the wild, leading some scientists to question the wisdom of keeping large, intelligent, and sometimes territorial creatures in captivity and expecting them to perform on a regular basis. Filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite began researching the lives of orcas in captivity after the death of Dawn Brancheau, and in the documentary Blackfish, she offers a powerful and provocative look at a remarkable breed of animals humans still don’t fully understand, and how the financial interests of water parks and resorts may run counter to the best interests of the animals they put on display. Taking its title from a Native American name for orcas, Blackfish received its world premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.