DENVER - A film, which questions whether killer whales should be kept in captivity, premieres Friday at Denver's Chez Artiste theater.
"Blackfish" takes an in-depth look at the death of top SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau. In 2010, she was pulled into a tank at the park's Orlando location by a whale named Tilikum. It was later revealed that Brancheau wasn't the first person whom Tilikum had killed. In fact, the whale had killed two other people.
Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the film's director-producer-and writer, told 9NEWS that she didn't understand why and how something like Brancheau's death could happen. Her search for an answer is what inspired her to make this film.
"I thought I was doing a documentary on a single incident, but what I came to find out was that these animals are so complex and require so much environmental stimulation that there is just no way that human beings can replicate what it is that they need and it is actually very dangerous for us," Cowperthwaite said.
After making the film, Cowperthwaite told 9NEWS she no longer believes killer whales should be in captivity under any circumstance.
"Killer whales are not suitable for captivity. They fight all the time. They're used to swimming a hundred miles a day. Now they're just swimming laps in a pool. They become incredible bored, sad, frustrated and they can attack trainers," she said.
SeaWorld chose not to talk with 9NEWS on camera but did send a written statement. It reads in part: "The film is inaccurate and misleading and, regrettably, exploits a tragedy that remains a source of deep pain for Dawn Brancheau's family, friends and colleagues."
Cowperthwaite isn't anti-SeaWorld. She is simply against their current practices.
"SeaWorld, given the fact that they are a $2 billion a year industry, I think they are the only ones equipped to evolve us past animals for entertainment and into rehab and release centers and sea sanctuaries and sea pens and coves and retire their killer whales there. They could make money from this. It's a profit making endeavor. People would actually love to come see killer whales actually being really killer whales for the first time," she said.
SeaWorld's full statement to 9NEWS read: "Blackfish is billed as a documentary, but instead of a fair and balanced treatment of a complex subject, the film is inaccurate and misleading and, regrettably, exploits a tragedy that remains a source of deep pain for Dawn Brancheau's family, friends and colleagues. To promote its bias that killer whales should not be maintained in a zoological setting, the film paints a distorted picture that withholds from viewers key facts about SeaWorld - among them, that SeaWorld is one of the world's most respected zoological institutions, that Sea World rescues, rehabilitates and returns to the wild hundreds of wild animals every year, and that SeaWorld commits millions of dollars annually to conservation and scientific research. Perhaps most important, the film fails to mention SeaWorld's commitment to the safety of its team members and guests and to the care and welfare of its animals, as demonstrated by the company's continual refinement and improvement to its killer whale facilities, equipment and procedures both before and after the death of Dawn Brancheau."
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