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Blackfish tells the story of Tilikum, a performing killer whale that killed several people while in captivity. Along the way, 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 multi-billion dollar sea-park industry. This emotionally wrenching, tautly structured story challenges us to consider our relationship to nature and reveals how little we humans have learned from these highly intelligent and enormously sentient fellow mammals.

The film has generated significant coverage about issues related to keeping killer whales in captivity, and opened this debate up beyond the spheres of animal activism and academia. The film has moved elementary school students to protest field trips to Seaworld, rock bands to cancel their Seaworld performances, and state legislators to propose bills banning the use of whales in theme parks. Seaworld attendance is down 13 percent in the first three months of 2014.


This film was a selection in the 2014 Media Impact Festival. Find out more about the film’s funding and impact in its full festival case study.

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