The “Blackfish Movement” reached St. Cloud State University this past Wednesday at Ritsche auditorium when Tim Zimmerman, co-producer of “Blackfish,” arrived to speak about SeaWorld, animal captivity and societal compassion towards animals internationally and in the United States.
Zimmerman began his journey on killer whales in captivity long before “Blackfish” had become what it is today.
Zimmerman establishes himself as a writer and journalist more than a producer, considering his background as a senior editor and diplomatic correspondent for U.S. News and World Report. Though he was focused on U.S. foreign policy and international diplomacy, he was not bound to them.
He furthered his journalistic abilities to a wide array of topics including sailing, diving and eventually to the topic of SeaWorld and the animal regiment that the marine park implements.
Zimmerman mentioned during his presentation that when digging for a story about a specific topic, a journalist can end up going down a figurative hole that can take years to get out of. Zimmerman experienced just that when pursuing what is now considered by many, as the “Blackfish Movement.”
“What kept me going in the hole was that every turn was fascinating. Whenever you’re learning something new and you’re coming across information that is interesting, you keep going,” said Zimmerman.
Zimmerman, as a writer, came across many challenges when gathering all of the research and data for the documentary.
“What was interesting for me as a writer, was the difference in how you tell a story in film, versus how you tell a story in print. I found film a lot more challenging to succeed with, but when you get it, when you have it. When you have the person telling the story in a compelling way that you can use, the results, I learned, are explosive,” said Zimmerman.
“Blackfish” the documentary could not have made the impact that it did if it had not been a film documentary, Zimmerman said. “Blackfish” is a testament to the effectiveness of a well-produced and directed documentary.
“People react to a well-told story in film in a way they don’t with print,” said Zimmerman.
Zimmerman spoke briefly on the movie itself during his presentation, assuming that most, if not all of the attendees had already seen the film. The majority of the presentation
focused on a perspective that had not been touched on as extensively in the film.
Zimmerman spoke about practices all over the world that incited animal cruelty, to whales and other animals.
He highlighted whale poaching practices in Japan, Norway, Iceland and other parts of the globe, giving an outlook to a deeper cultural problem. He insists that to solve the issue at hand we must look into the cultures of the people who are committing these acts.
The prominent point that Zimmerman made the entire night, was the step that the United States must take in order to solve the problem of animal cruelty.
Zimmerman stated that the United States must look at themselves before beginning efforts in other countries against whaling. Zimmerman said that when the United States told Japan that the whaling and poaching being done in their country was cruel and must come to an end, Japan responded by pointing out our faults with animals in the protein industry, such as cattle, chicken and pork.
Animals everyday in the United States are abused for profits, he said. Many Americans contribute to this market without even knowing it. By purchasing certain proteins such as chicken, beef or pork, the very actions we preach against are ingrained in our society Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman’s presentation was a call for compassion backed with factual evidence. His presentation urged people to use the same compassion and empathy that was sparked while watching “Blackfish” towards other species of animals.
“We were part of the effort, we were part of the conversation to get people mobilized,” said Zimmerman.
“What was beautiful about it was that a whole community grew up around it who were already interested in this movie, but used the movie to kind of get other people going, and bring other people into the issue and that is self-sustaining. So I felt that I can move on and write about other issues that are related in a way,” said Zimmerman.
Hopes are high for both Zimmerman and the “Blackfish” community as a whole. Many groups and organizations have formed to combat the issue of marine mammal captivity, as well as whale hunting and poaching.
Some of these groups and organizations can credit “Blackfish” and Zimmerman in part for the massive influx of support and recognition both nationally and internationally.
“In terms of ‘Blackfish’ and marine mammal captivity go, there’s this whole universe of people who have taken the initiative to pursue that issue and I think they’re going to be successful. Its unbelievable what they are achieving,” said Zimmerman.
The main point of Zimmerman’s presentation can be summed up with a quote by Mahatma Gandhi, which he showed at the very beginning of the presentation.
“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Photos by Motoki Nakatani