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Filmmakers of 'The Cove' respond to SeaWorld's ads

By Elizabeth Batt     Dec 24, 2013 in Entertainment
After SeaWorld bought defensive full-page ads in major US newspapers last week, criticism of the marine park chain is intensifying. The Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS), producers of the movie The Cove, fired another shot for advocacy yesterday.
"The truth is in the facts", wrote OPS in its open letter which it signed "from the informed American public."
The non-profit organization, notable for producing an Academy Award-winning documentary about the dolphin drives in Taiji, Japan, said it was "time to set the record straight."
"We represent millions of American citizens including scientists, researchers, veterinarians, ex-trainers, marine biologists, educators, conservationists, mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, students, veterans, and many other compassionate and intelligent people," OPS said.
The charity organization, whose Executive Director is Louie Psihoyos, argued that a "growing sector of the public sees through the narrative that SeaWorld has crafted about its operations — they know that ultimately SeaWorld is a business with a bottom line."
OPS then called the coporation out and accused the giant marine park of running scared. "The truth about captivity is spreading," they said, "especially since the release of the film Blackfish."
OPS' own hit documentary The Cove, followed Ric O'Barry and his Dolphin Project crew as they attempted to film the brutal slaughter of dolphins in Japan.
Having to resort to undercover tactics in order to get the footage out to the world, the film netted over 70 global awards, culminating in an Oscar for Best Documentary in 2009. It also placed Taiji's infamous cove firmly on the map, shunting the town under a microscope that persists to this day.
Blackfish it seems, is heading in the same direction advocacy wise. But it's also resonating with the public, including some supporters of SeaWorld, who have stepped forward after watching the movie and the subsequent debate, play out in the media.
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Blackfish/Magnolia Films/
Two days ago, former park trainers featured in the documentary, offered their own rebuttal to SeaWorld's ads.
The park crafted its defense in response to the withdrawal of several prominent musical acts who had cancelled their performances at the park's annual Bands, Brew and Barbecue event.
National Geographic and other outlets then picked up the story of fifth-graders who cancelled their overnight trip to SeaWorld San Diego. The move was led by 10-year-old Kirra Kotler from Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School in Malibu, California. She had watched Blackfish and crossed the park off her to-do list.
Last weekend, demonstrators grabbed further global attention by hosting an elaborate protest outside of SeaWorld's Florida park.
With systematic pot shots from SeaWorld execs appearing across media outlets and supporting organizations, the corporation continues to stop short of entering a full-blown debate.
Chastising CNN for showing the film on its news network, SeaWorld's CEO Jim Atchison told Bloomberg.com that Blackfish, "firmly crosses the line of what you would expect from a news organization."
CNN responded that it "made continued offers to SeaWorld to appear in conjunction with our coverage, and always disclosed our connection to the film in our reporting."
Blackfish meanwhile, like The Cove before it, is picking up critics awards. It has also been shortlisted for an Academy Award. Something else Atchison sneered at in his interview with Bloomberg.
"I'll defer to the Academy folks as to what they pick," he said. "The film is a misleading bit of animal rights propaganda and I would not consider it a documentary worth watching."
In its conclusion of the open letter, OPS begged to differ. The organization countered:
The truth about SeaWorld is in the facts. Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s Blackfish and our film The Cove give viewers a deep and meaningful connection with the remarkable animals in our oceans. But this is just the beginning of a growing shift in public awareness about the impoverished lives of animals at SeaWorld. As Cowperthwaite says, young people today are becoming the "I can't believe we used to do that" generation. No amount of advertising will counter the Blackfish Effect. SeaWorld, your job is to now adapt to an informed public.
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