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  • Nov 3-5

Blackfish

Black­fish is an impas­sioned doc­u­men­tary that will change the way you look at per­for­mance killer whales.  The film tells the sto­ry of Tilikum, one such whale that killed three peo­ple while in cap­tiv­i­ty.  Direc­tor-pro­duc­er Gabriela Cow­perth­waite com­piles shock­ing footage and emo­tion­al inter­views to explore the creature’s extra­or­di­nary nature, the species’ cru­el treat­ment in cap­tiv­i­ty, the lives and loss­es of the train­ers and the pres­sures brought to bear by the sea-park indus­try. Cov­er­age of Tilikum begins with his cap­ture in 1983 off the coast of Ice­land, show­ing how he was harassed by fel­low cap­tive whales and left in dark tanks for hours – inci­dents which Cow­perth­waite argues con­tributed to the whale’s aggres­sion. Black­fish shows the some­times dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences of keep­ing such intel­li­gent and sen­tient crea­tures in cap­tiv­i­ty.  This emo­tion­al­ly wrench­ing, taut­ly struc­tured sto­ry chal­lenges us to con­sid­er our rela­tion­ship to nature and reveals how lit­tle we humans have learned from these fel­low mammals.

Many of us have expe­ri­enced the excite­ment and awe of watch­ing 8,000-pound orcas, or “killer whales,” soar out of the water and fly through the air at sea parks, as if in per­fect har­mo­ny with their train­ers. Yet, in our con­tem­po­rary lore this mighty black-and-white mam­mal is like a two-faced Janus—beloved as a majes­tic, friend­ly giant yet infa­mous for its capac­i­ty to kill vicious­ly. Black­fish unrav­els the com­plex­i­ties of this dichoto­my, employ­ing the sto­ry of noto­ri­ous per­form­ing whale Tilikum, who—unlike any orca in the wild—has tak­en the lives of sev­er­al peo­ple while in cap­tiv­i­ty. So what exact­ly went wrong?

Shock­ing, nev­er-before-seen footage and riv­et­ing inter­views with train­ers and experts man­i­fest the orca’s extra­or­di­nary nature, the species’ cru­el treat­ment in cap­tiv­i­ty over the last four decades, and the grow­ing dis­il­lu­sion­ment of work­ers who were mis­led and endan­gered by the high­ly prof­itable sea-park industry.

Black­fish pre­miered at the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val on Jan­u­ary 19, 2013, and was picked up by Mag­no­lia Pic­tures for wider release

Run­ning time: 82 minutes