"Blackfish" documentary on captive Orcas opens in Tampa this weekend

Scathing documentary tells Tilicum's story

TAMPA - A controversial film that could make you think twice about going to SeaWorld  again opens Friday at the Tampa Theatre. The documentary "Blackfish", about the capture, treatment and behavior of killer whales at SeaWorld has put marine parks around the country on the defensive.

"Blackfish" is at heart the story of a single animal, an orca named Tilicum involved in the deaths of three people including SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau. But it is an indictment of an entire industry.  

In the film former Seaworld employees describe the heartbreaking separation of calves from their families during whale roundups, harsh treatment the captive whales suffer from their keepers and other whales, and the dangers of interacting with highly intelligent animals in the tight confines of a tank.

"I do really invite everyone to go out and take a look at it. It's a strong piece of film making" said film critic Steve Persall.

Persall believes certain movies have  the power to change public opinion.  Tom Hanks in "Philadelphia" humanized AIDS victims. "Supersize Me"  made many people queasy about fast food.

But Persall says the two top grossing documentaries of  all time, Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9-11" and last year's "Obama's America: 2116" failed in their ostensible mission.

They were both intended to get someone to lose an election and neither one did  it. That's pretty good indication that these things don't have as much impact as we think they do or as some people are afraid they might.

That would come as a relief to SeaWorld officials who've put out only a brief statement in response to "Blackfish" saying 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 co-workers."

Tampa Theatre says their decision to screen the film is not an endorsement of the subject matter.  CNN is scheduled to air "Blackfish" in late October.

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