Dawn Brancheau posing under water with Tilikum, the Orca that eventually would kill her. Her death is the subject of the documentary 'Blackfish.'

Dawn Brancheau posing under water with Tilikum, the Orca that eventually would kill her. Her death is the subject of the documentary ‘Blackfish.’

SeaWorld, still trying to contain the damage caused by the searing documentary “Blackfish,” launched a new public relations blitz yesterday that only served to re-ignite the controversy more than a year after the film premiered.

The company pushed the issue back into the limelight by filing a Labor Department complaint yesterday (Feb. 27).

The complaint charges that investigator Lara A. Padgett, who examined the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, 40, had “inappropriate ties” to animal rights activists.

Padgett works for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an arm of the Labor Department. SeaWorld alleges she may have leaked confidential information from the investigation to the documentary makers.

“Blackfish,” was first screened at the Sundance Film Festival in January a year ago and on CNN last October. It provided an eye-opening look at the way the aquarium operates.

The wave of publicity that followed eventually subsided, until yesterday, when SeaWorld’s action sparked a new round of media coverage, including a story in The New York Times.

The film focuses on an Orca, or killer whale, named Tilikum, which killed Brancheau in Feb. 2010.

The experienced trainer had worked with Tilikum extensively, but during one session, the giant whale grabbed her, dragged her into the pool and began thrashing her violently.

Tilikum broke her jaw, fractured part of her vertebra and dislocated an elbow and knee before drowning her, according to her autopsy. The attack was so violent the whale, at one point, latched onto her hair and ripped part of her scalp from her head.

The documentary traced Tilikum’s history with SeaWorld, its long pattern of aggressive behavior, SeaWorld’s failure to do anything about it, and the methods SeaWorld uses to train and care for the sea mammals. Much of the story is told by former SeaWorld trainers.

SeaWorld has been trying ever since to discredit the documentary as “propaganda” by animal rights activists. Ironically, the company posted gains in attendance during the last three months of 2013, after nine straight months of decline, according to ABC News.

SeaWorld has been trying to contain the damage by attacking every inconsistency in the film, no matter how small.

In one case for example, it charges that the documentary suggests Tilikum ate Brancheau’s arm. “This is false,” SeaWorld proclaims on a Web site set up solely to attack the film.

Brancheau still had both arms when her lifeless body was recovered. There… doesn’t that make you feel better?

Check out the video below, and a “Blackfish” trailer, let us know your thoughts and be sure to follow TheImproper on Twitter for the latest entertainment news.


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