Director of Acclaimed, Controversial Film "Blackfish" On "Talking Animals"

Talking Animals Jul 24 2013 9:00AM - 10:00AM Add to Calendar

My guest on "Talking Animals" July 24 will be Gabriela Cowperthwaite, director of “Blackfish,” an acclaimed and controversial new documentary examining the perils of keeping orcas in captivity.

A major through-line and focus of “Blackfish” becomes Tilikum, a 12,000-pound bull orca, who killed trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010 at SeaWorld Orlando.

Brancheau was the third person the whale had killed, and over the course of the 90-minute film, Tilikum emerges as an unfortunate poster boy for orcas going postal.

“Blackfish” posits that these highly intelligent, emotionally-complex, immensely social animals fare poorly in captive, performing settings like SeaWorld. It can make them frustrated, disturbed, psychotic.

And the film establishes there are far more attacks on the orca trainers, far more injuries, than the public ever hears about—indeed, than their fellow trainers ever hear about. (Meanwhile, there is not one documented instance of an orca killing a human in the wild.)

Cowperthwaite takes her camera far and wide, interviewing several former SeaWorld trainers, one of the men who hunted baby orcas for SeaWorld in Puget Sound some 40 years ago, employees of Sealand of the Pacific (the long-closed Canadian marine park, where Tilikum first “worked”--and first killed a trainer), various orca experts, a neuroscientist, among others.

An interview the film doesn’t feature: any current SeaWorld employee or executive; they declined Cowperthwaite's repeated requests.

Nonetheless, in recent days, SeaWorld Entertainment harshly criticized “Blackfish,” challenging the validity of several portions of the film. Cowperthwaite and the producers responded point by point.

The conversation with Gabriela Cowperthwaite will air on "Talking Animals" July 24 at 9am ET.



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