The movie Blackfish, which is current under fire for everything from misrepresenting content to having a possibly inappropriate relationship between the film makers and OSHA investigator Lara Padgett, was dealt yet another black eye. The latest blow came directly from the family of Dawn Brancheau, the SeaWorld Orlando trainer whose death is at the center of the controversial film.
In the movie, trainers with far less experience than the talented Brancheau presume to critique her last interaction with Tilikum, which was filmed just prior to the terrible accident that claimed her life.
Those who know Dawn best, i.e. her family, have come forward with a formal statement on the movie. Here's what they had to say via the Dawn Brancheau Foundation website:
There has recently been an abundance of attention focused on the film Blackfish. As the family of Dawn Brancheau, we are continually asked how we feel about the movie. We would like to take this opportunity to write briefly about the film so we can move on and continue our efforts to make the world a better place in honor of Dawn.
First and foremost, we are not affiliated with this movie in any way. We did not assist with its creation and were unaware of its content until the film was shown at the Sundance Film Festival. The Dawn Brancheau Foundation as well as our family members have never and will never accept any compensation from its production.
The film has brought a great deal of attention to the welfare of animals, and for that we are grateful. However, Blackfish is not Dawn's story. Dawn Brancheau believed in the ethical treatment of animals. Dawn followed her dreams and became a marine animal trainer. She loved the whales and was proud of her work as a trainer. Dawn thrived on introducing the whales to the audience and educating them about the animals in her care. Dawn would not have remained a trainer at SeaWorld for 15 years if she felt that the whales were not well cared for. Trainer safety was important to Dawn, and it remains important to us as well. Our family always supported Dawn and we continue to support Dawn's friends and co-workers who currently care for the animals she so loved.
Since Dawn’s death nearly four years ago, the media has focused mainly on the whales. A human life was lost that day and it feels as though some believe her death was just a footnote. Dawn's death is central to our story. In 2010, we created the Dawn Brancheau Foundation in her honor to continue the legacy of the work important to Dawn during her life. The Foundation focuses on improving the lives of children and animals in need, inspiring others to follow their dreams, and promoting the importance of community service. The Foundation will continue its efforts to make a difference in our world. We are grateful for all the caring individuals who help us keep Dawn's light shining brightly.
The Family of Dawn Brancheau will not be making any further statements and we ask that our privacy be respected.
The statement is very powerful, and the family's actions show that they still support SeaWorld Orlando. For example, they were present at Jungle Jack Hanna's opening show at kick-off weekend of the park's Wild Days event. You can hear Hanna's touching tribute to Dawn in the beginning of the video accompanying this article.
The movie is rapidly losing its credibility, with everyone from the Academy Awards to former trainers who participated in its making to Dawn Brancheau's own family distancing themselves as far as possible from it. With OSHA currently investigating Lara Padgett's relationship with the film makers, as shown by photos taken at various premiere events, the Blackfish backlash looks like it will continue to grow.