UPDATED 8/9/13 to reflect a change to the Q&A at the Little.
In the provocative new documentary "Blackfish," director Gabriela Cowperthwaite examines the treatment of orca whales in SeaWorld theme parks, demonstrating the dangers (to both the animals as well as their human trainers) of keeping these fiercely intelligent, but often misunderstood, creatures in captivity. She focuses specifically on Tilikum, the sadly now notorious whale responsible for the deaths of three people over the course of his 30-year "career." She argues that his behavior was inevitable, the result of the trauma he suffered by living under the conditions in which the animals are typically kept.
Cowperthwaite uses interviews with marine life researchers, former SeaWorld employees, and some absolutely bone-chilling footage of several orca attacks, to back up her thesis, and the result is surprisingly emotional. It's difficult hearing the experts describe the behavior exhibited by the animals, and their capacity for emotional understanding on the level of any human. Listening to the trainers speak of their experiences, it's clear the attachment they feel for the animals they worked with and it's that bond that led them to speak out against the practices at parks like SeaWorld. The case the film makes is nothing new, and the horrifying consequences of forcing wild animals to perform for our entertainment have been well-documented, but this gut punch of a movie is bound to make those arguments stick with you.
The Little will host a special screening of "Blackfish" at on Tuesday, August 13, 7 p.m. with a live Skype Q&A with one of the trainers interviewed in the film, before the film begins its regular run at the theater starting August 16.