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'Blackfish' Trailer Offers a Powerful Look at Captive Killer Whales

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The first trailer for “Blackfish,” the new documentary from director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, tells the dramatic story behind the captive killer whale Tilikum, the three deaths he caused, and the consequences of keeping such animals in captivity.

“I initially chose to focus on Tilikum because of the death of Dawn Brancheau,” Cowperthwaite told TakePart earlier this year. “I knew nothing about his past or his behavior, but his story just happened to scream the loudest. Why would such a highly emotional, intelligent animal bite the hand that feeds it? It was bizarre. It was scary. Later, when I started peeling back the onion, I realized he gave me a powerful point of entry, but the story was about so much more than Tilikum.”

Naturally, SeaWorld decline to give any interviews for the doc – which is not surprising considering the $2B/year animal entertainment industry they’re promoting. Even some former trainers were nervous about going on record on what happens behind the scenes.

“A lot of them were pretty brave and came out after Dawn was killed and were sort of outspoken,” Cowperthwaite told IndieWire at Sundance. “So those folks felt a little more comfortable. But there were people who were not comfortable, who hadn’t quit years and years ago but rather more recently. They were very hesitant and scared about coming forward. On two separate occasions, two people canceled interviews after we’d flown there.”

Check out the powerful trailer for “Blackfish” below. The film will be released on July 12th.

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