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article imageTilikum talks — Orca's story told in book and film

By Elizabeth Batt     Jun 13, 2013 in Entertainment
With both David Kirby's book -- Death At SeaWorld debuting in paperback, and the documentary 'Blackfish' opening across US and UK theatres, July is looking to become Tilikum's month.
It will most likely be a month that SeaWorld will wish it could gloss over. As the giant entertainment park launches an 18-month celebration to lead it into its 50th anniversary, their prime bull orca -- Tilikum, has something to say.
Captured at about three years old off the east coast of Iceland in 1983, Tilikum is entering his 30th year of captivity. The killer whale has achieved many 'firsts' during his tenure at the marine park. He is the most successful breeding killer whale in captivity, and the first to kill a human being. Not once, but three times.
Yet, there are always two sides to every story, and in July, Tilikum will finally have the chance to tell his. The mammoth 12,000 lb., 22.5-foot orca will do so both in print, and on the big screen.
Death At SeaWorld
On July 2nd, David Kirby's highly-acclaimed book -- Death At SeaWorld, will be released in paperback. With the support of an initiative by cetacean conservation group -- Fins and Fluke, the book is scaling the Amazon rankings as efficiently as an orca slicing through water. Kirby wrote last Saturday on Facebook:
"This AM, the DASW paperback had an Amazon ranking of about 375,000. Right now, it's at 24,000 -- that's a huge leap ..."
Digital Journal is not surprised that Kirby's paperback version (released on July 2nd through Amazon. com, has taken the number one spot for "Hot New Release" on marine life. We glowingly reviewed the hardcover version just last year.
The strength of Kirby's book rests in how it reads. Based on extensive factual evidence, it reads like a novel. The author cleverly and artfully guides the reader through a complicated 'mess-story', wracked by controversy and confounded by opposing points of view.
For those who love orcas, the description of Tilikum's capture will bring you to your knees. The entire book will leave you reeling. This quote from author Jamie Craig, describes it the best:
It's that moment when you finish a book, look around, and realize that everyone is just carrying on with their lives as though you didn't just experience trauma at the hands of a paperback.
Left to Fins and Fluke (FAF), the new paperback will wing its way into every beach bag this summer. Group president Alex Dorer, told Digital Journal:
We are hoping DASW will make the bestsellers list - every preorder counts towards the books initial release number. If Death at SeaWorld reaches the list, media attention tends to follow. The more media attention on whales in captivity the better for us to spread our message and teach people the negativity impact captivity has on cetaceans.
To help book sales even further, FAF promises that for every proof of purchase received, David Kirby has agreed to mail an autographed sticker that can be placed in the book.
Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite introduces the movie to a packed crowd at the Van Wezel Pe...
Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite introduces the movie to a packed crowd at the Van Wezel Performance Art hall. The movie kicked off the 2013 Sarasota Film Festival.
Video Still/YouTube
If Kirby's book tells Tilikum's story in words, Gabriela Cowperthwaite's, 'Blackfish', provides more powerful imagery of the killer whale on film. Since the documentary's debut at the Sundance Film Festival last February, it has premiered selectively and to much acclaim, at film festivals around the globe.
From Torino, Italy, to the first of several screenings in the UK beginning tomorrow, the documentary also took the festival's 'Audience Award' at the Green Film Festival in Seoul, South Korea.
A newly released trailer for the film which talks specifically about Tilikum's life at SeaWorld, is currently listed as one of most popular trailers on the iTunes website. It has been viewed over two million times.
Blackfish will be released in select US theatres on July 19 and in UK theatres, July 26. It will eventually premiere, hopefully later this year, on CNN.
Left to SeaWorld, Tilikum will work until the day he dies. This "bored and broken whale ... drifting aimlessly in the confines of his featureless tank," writes Candace Calloway Whiting at Seattle PI, may not have too many more years left.
Despite the killer whale's involvement in two other human deaths, Tilikum's story might have
Tilikum at SeaWorld Orlando.
Tilikum at SeaWorld Orlando.
Milan Boers
remained untold. Both Kirby and Cowperthwaite have acknowledged that it was the orca's brutal attack on Dawn Brancheau in 2010, that sparked their interest in this case, and compelled them to ask why.
There is an irony and sadness in this. As both Kirby's book and Cowperthwaite's documentary explore Tilikum's psychology, they also pose a question of their own. What have we learned in the 40 plus years of displaying captive orcas?
For ex-SeaWorld trainer -- Carol Ray, the answer came during her tenure at the giant marine mammal park. Ray, who has now joined forces with other former SeaWorld trainers at Voice of the Orcas, said in an interview on CNN, "The only thing keeping captive orca's has taught us, is that it is wrong to keep orca's captive."
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