Return to tiff.’s home page

Film Description

Film Description



Orcas are profoundly intelligent mammals, thought by the scientific community to have a deep capacity for emotion and social interaction that’s equal, if not superior, to that of humans. There are no known instances of an orca ever harming a human in the wild—but Blackfish, the SeaWorld exposé that made waves at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, sets out to reveal why captivity is different. Unfolding with the tone and pace of a thriller, this scathing investigative documentary reveals that SeaWorld is not only inhumane in its treatment of orcas, but also knowingly puts human lives at risk.

The film opens with a 911 call made by a SeaWorld employee, reporting tearfully that a whale has attacked one of its trainers. This moment is contrasted with underwater footage of an orca dramatically launching a trainer out of the water during a choreographed stunt. As they break the surface, the crowd erupts into a chilling roar of applause.

The death in question occurred at SeaWorld in 2010, when an experienced trainer was dragged into the water and violently drowned by an orca named Tilikum during a “Dine with Shamu” show. The incident was covered up by SeaWorld publicists, who attributed the death to “trainer error.” As it turns out, however, Tilikum was already responsible for two human deaths before this tragedy—a fact that was known to the higher-ups at SeaWorld but withheld from young trainers who were recruited to work with the whale.

A powerful piece of journalistic filmmaking, Blackfish has the power to change people’s minds about animal captivity, and perhaps even bring down the multibillion dollar industry at its centre.


"Blackfish goes even further than 2008's Oscar-winning The Cove to launch a direct attack on SeaWorld and the practice of keeping marine mammals in captivity. Righteous, captivating and entirely successful." - Justin Chang, Variety

""Blackfish" is no trumped up horror story fueled by Hollywood brand names and special effects. In this riveting documentary directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, all of the creatures are real, and all seem entitled to the serious chip on their shoulders." - Janice Page, Boston Globe

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Year: 2013
Runtime: 90 minutes
Country: Canada
Language: English, Spanish (English subtitles)
Distributor: KinoSmith

Ratings: ON NR / BC NR / AB NR / SK NR / MB NR / QC NR / Maritmes NR


Date Circuit Centre Location
April 28, 2014 Vernon Film Society
Vernon Town Theatre
Vernon, BC
Programmers Login