Born to be Free: "The Blackfish for Beluga Whales"

After a successful World Premiere at Sheffield Doc/Fest - The Hollywood Reporter has quoted the film as "The Doc Hoping to Be the 'Blackfish' for Beluga Whales"

Born to Be Free highlights the plight of 18 belugas bound for U.S. aquariums, while also showcasing the brutal and often deadly methods of capturing and transporting the white marine mammals known as Arctic dolphins.

The Hollywood Reporter made the below similarities between Blackfish & Born to be Free:

"Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s documentary about killer whales in captivity almost brought SeaWorld to its knees, with the resort's stock plummeting as sponsors pulled out and crowds and revenue dropped. Last year, it announced it was ending the controversial orca shows at its San Diego theme park, while in March it revealed it would end its killer whale breeding program altogether, a remarkable achievement for a low-budget 83-minute film.

While SeaWorld isn’t the primary target, The Hollywood Reporter has learned that reps for another major aquarium have been keeping a close eye on a new doc that hopes to do what Blackfish did for orcas for another aquatic mammal popular among oceanariums.

Described as “Arctic dolphins” or “sea canaries,” beluga whales are instantly striking creatures, almost ghostly white and with a distinctive swelling at the front of their heads. Most live around the Arctic Ocean and the seas and coasts of Russia and Greenland. But given their unique appearance, intelligence and chirpy, chatty, almost humanoid behavior, a growing number have found themselves living in captivity in aquariums around the world and performing for crowds. Estimates suggest there are just around 150,000 left living in the wild.

Born to Be Free, which had its world premiere at the recently concluded Sheffield Doc/Fest, focuses on the plight of 18 belugas. Captured off the coast of Russia, the 18 were originally intended for the U.S., with the vast Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta due to receive at least two (others were bound for Shedd in Chicago, SeaWorld and Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut). But new legislation in the U.S. regarding the import of sea mammals saw the NOAA fisheries agency deny the aquarium’s request for a permit, leaving the animals in administrative limbo land."

As the film highlights the treatment of the whales, the filmmakers are galvanising support for the release of the animals:

"We want to raise money to buy them,” says freediver Beley. “There is a lot of will to do that.” Lerner estimates that the cost of each of the belugas has dropped from “about $100,000 to $20,000,” meaning a simple campaign could help free them."

As the film continues to play around the festival circuit, a fundraising campaign shall begin with the goal to release the 18 whales still in captivity.