A Whale Of A Documentary

Noah Davis notes how Blackfish, the documentary about killer whales at SeaWorld that was just snubbed for an Oscar nomination, took almost a year after its premiere at last year’s Sundance festival to go from obscurity to enormous popularity:

On one hand, it’s amazing it took Blackfish this long to explode given that it’s a well-done film about animal cruelty, a subject Americans jump all over. On the other, it makes you realize how many steps it takes to break through the noise. Consider the path:

Sundance to theaters to cable to Netflix, a chain 12 months in the making. And it’s not as though the film was ignored at each step. Blackfish garnered positive press everywhere it played, landing write-ups in major newspapers and on websites. There was an easy, relatable narrative, one that people would feel good (or self-righteous) about telling their friends. Blackfish is sharable, not in a LOL Cats way but in a “look at how caring/socially conscious I am” and “in a people really like animals” way. It’s the type of thing people put on their Facebook pages or share on their Twitter feeds. And still, it took a year to spread.

I think the bigger point here is that the thing “everybody’s talking about” isn’t really being talked about by everybody. It’s being talked about by people you know. I’m guilty of this, too. I only watched it because a close friend recommended it to me. Before I started researching this piece, I assumed it came out of nowhere. I had no idea it was shown on CNN, much less played at Sundance. It wasn’t on my radar, and then it was, and then it was everywhere. The Blackfish phenomenon continues to grow, and it’s having at least some tangential effect. SeaWorld’s stock has dropped almost nine percent since July 19 and more than six percent in the last month.

Update from a reader:

It was with great disappointment that I saw that Blackfish lost out on a well-deserved nomination. I work in the wildlife tour industry (the film ends with a trip on a boat similar to ours!) located in the Salish Sea. What Sea World does to the orcas is a crime against nature. The film accurately exposes this and needs to be seen. Whether it should win or not is another question. (The film on the Indonesian mass killers, The Act of Killing, is the most compelling and original piece of filmmaking I have ever watched.)

Another notes that “Seaworld stock soared with the news of Oscar snub”:

Shares of SeaWorld Entertainment surged 8.39 percent on Thursday to close at $33.59 a share, the stock’s highest level since August. On a day with little news about SeaWorld, based in Orlando, Fla., it’s not a stretch to suggest that the Oscar snub was fueling the stock’s rise.