Tilikum

2013, HD-video, 45 min.

 

The narrative of Jan Peter Hammer's film Tilikum starts on 25 February 2010 with a 911 call. Seconds after having completed a live performance at sea World Orlando, Florida, a forty-year-old trainer called Dawn Brancheau was dragged underwater, drowned and dismembered by Tilikum, a bull orca. As it later became known, Brancheau was Tilikum's third victim, the orca having already killed another trainer who slipped and fell into his tank and a visitor, the latter under unknown circumstances. Fascinated by this story (and its afterlife in the mainstream news media), Hammer began to research the incident, which revealed details about the entertainment-industrial complex of which Sea World is a part. He also discovered a bizarre web of connections between the earliest 'oceanic' leisure centers and Cold War military research–links full of grim twists and turns ranging from grisly development of sensory deprivation techniques, fatal early experiments on dolphins, LSD-fuelled scientists, interspecies communication, and what all this has to do with the space race.