Addressing Death in Documentaries

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I never theorize on any of that stuff because I just don’t know anything. I don’t think any of us really know anything about her family’s participation in any legal stuff. The only thing I know for sure is that her family has fought very hard to keep the tape that shows her death out of the public eye, so that’s the extent of it. Originally, I did want very much for her family to be a voice in some way in the film. I actually thought that the film would be powerful if it in some way had Dawn’s voice in it. It was a very important lesson for me to understand that my need for this film meant that I would have to regurgitate the incident. I would have to regurgitate that fateful day for the documentary. And regurgitating that day is so out of step with healing for her family. They want to focus on Dawn and what she did in her life, not focus on her demise. So that’s a tough one, because I wanted to give them this film and understanding of why this came to happen and that she was this fantastic trainer and it wasn’t her fault. You think in your head you’re maybe giving someone a gift, and in fact, you’re not at all. They need you to go off to the side and live in a parallel universe. It was hard, but it was a great lesson for me.

Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Director of Blackfish, on addressing death in documentaries and respecting those left behind. (source)

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