Captive orcas are the subject of the documentary film Blackfish

Captive orcas are the subject of the documentary film Blackfish

Passionate cause brings orca documentary to Vernon

Vernon Film Society screens the whale tale Blackfish thanks to efforts of 11-year-old Armstrong activist Jaida Korberg.

Jaida Korberg is a typical 11-year-old girl who enjoys playing the violin, living on the family’s acreage with a menagerie of animals and spending time with her friends at Len Wood middle school in Armstrong.

But what’s not so typical is that the Grade 6 student has made it her mission to shut down a multi-million dollar entertainment complex.

Through her Facebook page, Sink SeaWorld, Jaida is encouraging others to support her cause.

It all started when she heard about the documentary Blackfish, which has been changing people’s minds about keeping whales in captivity.

“I had watched the movie, The Cove, and did a lot of research afterwards and found out about SeaWorld,” said Jaida. “I don’t think it’s right to keep animals in captivity.”

Jaida inquired through the Vernon Film Society if Blackfish was available for rent through its website. When she discovered it wasn’t, she took matters into her own hands.

In an e-mail to VFS president Dave Brennan, she explained her reasons for wanting to see the film:

“I am really hoping to watch the film Blackfish and I know that if you showed it as part of the film society at the Towne Theatre, many people would attend. I would promote the showing of Blackfish to all of my friends and family and supporters. Thank you for your consideration.”

Brennan responded that the VFS board was impressed by Jaida’s passion and enthusiasm for her goal.

“We were unanimous in our appreciation for your inquiry and have requested the film Blackfish to be part of our regular schedule in April.”

Blackfish examines the life of orcas in captivity and specifically at SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla., home to Shamu Stadium, known for its shows where trainers swim with the orcas.

In recent years, those shows have been the centre of controversy following the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, who in 2010 was killed by one of the whales while preparing a crowd for a live performance at SeaWorld.

The film documents the orca in question, Tilikum, who was reportedly responsible for two human deaths before Brancheau.

According to the Blackfish website, orcas are profoundly intelligent mammals, thought by the scientific community to have a deep capacity for emotion and social interaction that is equal, if not superior, to that of humans. There are no known instances of an orca ever harming a human in the wild, but the film sets out to reveal why their behaviour in captivity is dramatically different.

Jaida, who visited SeaWorld when she was a toddler, says she was most impressed when she saw orcas in the wild in Tofino when she was eight years old.

“It was amazing,” she said. “I don’t understand why they will have an orca in captivity when he has killed people.”

On her Facebook page, Jaida has listed all of the whales that have died in captivity, and has designed a logo that shows a whale crammed into a tiny bathtub.

Meanwhile, her mom, Alissa, has ordered the film online and has watched it several times.

“Jaida has always been passionate about the things she believes in. She is also caring, determined and has a lot of drive and I am very proud of her,” she said. “And everyone at the Vernon Film Society has been so supportive and encouraging.”

With the VFS set to show Blackfish Monday, Jaida is now busy fundraising to purchase 200 tickets to give to other kids her age. The society has agreed to drop the ticket price from its usual $7 to $5 for her tickets only. On her crowd funding site,, she has so far raised $420.

Her plan is to give the tickets to Grade 6 students at Okanagan Landing elementary school, to tie in with their recent visit to the Vancouver Aquarium.

“I have some friends who think I’m crazy and others who think it’s cool that I’m doing this,” she said.

The Vernon Film Society’s showing of Blackfish takes place Monday, with shows at 5:15 p.m. and 7:45 p.m., at the Vernon Towne Cinema. Tickets are available in advance at the Bean Scene and at the theatre one week prior to each film.