Research Summary 4

Kyline Stephens

Cowperthwaite, Gabriela. “Filmmaker: Why I Made ‘Blackfish'” CNN. Cable News Network, 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 03 Aug. 2015.

The controversy I am researching is whether or not SeaWorld is a safe environment for its captive animals. This secondary source relates to SeaWorld’s open letter that I used as my first because it is the opinion of Gabriela Cowperthwaite, director of Blackfish, the documentary that began the backlash against SeaWorld.

I believe that this article is credible because CNN is a reliable news source that has been around since 1980. This CNN special features Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s first-hand opinion as to why she chose to create the documentary that stirred up so much controversy. She has been making television documentaries for 15 years, which also makes her credible and knowledgeable in her field. Blackfish was the first of her documentaries to be distributed theatrically. It is apparent that Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the author of this article, is trustworthy and thoroughly researched the topic of killer whales in captivity prior to creating her film. The article is very informative and she presents herself in a way that allows us to understand her motives behind wanting answers to the many questions she had regarding captive marine animals. Cowperthwaite mentions her research through autopsy reports, interviews, and correspondence with SeaWorld. Her argument is formed very responsibly and ties in all her well-developed research.

Gabriela Cowperthwaite begins her article by referring to SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau’s killing. She claims that this is how her questioning began. The information did not add up, in her opinion, and Cowperthwaite did not understand why an animal as intelligent as a killer whale would bite the hand that feeds it. “Why would America’s lovable Shamu turn against us? How could our entire collective childhood memories of this delightful water park be so morbidly wrong?” These were the questions that motivated Cowperthwaites to “set out to understand this incident, not as an animal activist,” she insists, “but as a mother… and of course as a documentary filmmaker who unfortunately can’t let sleeping dogs lie.”

Gabriela Cowperthwaite claims to have wanted SeaWorld’s voice as part of her film all along. After many back-and-forth e-mails, however, they declined. Cowperthwaite explained that “this was [not] an easy film to make. There were nightmares, too many autopsy reports, sobbing interviewees and unhappy animals.” There was also the fear of being squashed by the $2 billion a year entity named SeaWorld, who would do anything in their power to protect their beloved Shamu. “But as I moved forward I knew that in telling this story in an honest and fact-driven way, I was telling the truth,” Cowperthwaite states, “It sounds cliché but it’s really that simple. At some point you’re simply compelled, in spite of yourself, to tell a story that needs to be told no matter how scared…” Because of all her research, she now claims to know that killer whales are not suitable for captivity. The effect producing Blackfish had on herself and on her crew is “impossible to shake.” She is now “dedicated to spreading the word” of what happens behind closed-doors to the animals in captivity at SeaWorld. She hopes that her film can be used as momentum to “help evolve us out of using animals for entertainment.” She urges that the killer whales that are in captivity be retired to “sea sanctuaries” where a large ocean cove is divided with a net. With the whales in these sea sanctuaries, “we could monitor their health, even feed them if need be where they can live out the rest of their lives in a dignified, sustainable manner.” Cowperthwaite closes by saying that her purpose behind Blackfish was simply to tell the real story. “Once audiences are armed with the truth, they will make the best decisions by themselves and their families,” she states.


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6 Responses to Research Summary 4

  1. Val

    I had heard about this controversy before, but I had never really looked into it. It seems really interesting especially because I don’t know on which side I stand on. I would really like to look more into it, because it seems interesting and definitely a topic to read more into.

  2. Itza

    As Valerie says I also remember hearing about this incident but never really looked into it. Although, we did see a couple of minutes of this documentary in class today and it interested me. From what I saw in the beginning of the documentary, it seems like SeaWorld made it seem like this incident that happened was just an accident and had former trainers who talk about how they loved all the animals. I would like to finish the documentary to see how Gabriela portrayed the mistreating of the killer whales.

  3. Kimberly

    I agree with both Val and Itza, I too would like to see the end of the documentary. The documentary really did a good job or seeing both sides, making the audience question there view on attractions like Sea World shows. One one side I get that there wild animals that should be left in the wild however I also see the facination people have with them, and why people enjoy going to places like Sea World.

  4. Evelyn

    I really love your topic for this essay. I remember watching that documentary and wanting to cry because of how horrible the killer whales were treated in Sea World. I used to love Sea World as a kid and now I am repulsed by it because of that documentary. It’s also good to see why that documentary was made in the first place. Good research summary!

  5. Rosalio

    This article by the director herself of Blackfish is very interesting. As she explains her reasoning behind creating the documentary, it provides a great outlook on her claim for the reader. After finally watching this documentary, this article summary really cleared questions I had about the director. Ultimately choosing a side to stand on is not that difficult after learning all the facts.

  6. Telana

    I just watched Cowperthwaite’s film and it was very interesting. I never knew much about the killer whales at SeaWorld before I watched this documentary so getting the full story behind it was very eye-opening. As a filmmaker, I love to hear what the director’s goal or vision was behind their films and this summary gave me a pretty good insight of that. Great source and research summary!

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