Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite never intended to film a documentary about whales in captivity. It was only after the unfortunate death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010 from a notorious orca named Tilikum that she decided to dig deeper.
"I was a mom that took her kids to SeaWorld," she told IndieWire while at Sundance earlier this year. "That's my entry point, unfortunately. I really didn't know anything about it. And another thing that always make me feel strange is that my entry point was that Dawn was killed by an orca. My entry point was a human death. There's something scary, bizarre and sensational about it that worked on me. So I guess in my mind if that triggered something in me, that if a film had a chance to allow me to pull back the curtain, maybe I could pull back the curtain for the general public."
Cowperthwaite's new documentary "Blackfish," arriving in theaters July 14th, offers a powerful look at the $2 billion/year marine park industry - and the whales like Tilikum forced to entertain with sometimes deadly consequences.
"In commercial terms, Blackfish will likely draw comparison to the 2009 doc The Cove, about mass dolphin capture and slaughter in Taiji, Japan," writes David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter in a review. "As searing as that film was, this one has equal if not greater impact. The sheer size and magnificence of the animal makes its plight in confinement arguably even more tragic, along with the evidence of its ruptured family dynamic."
Watch the trailer for "Blackfish" below.