Terra Mater Studios Introduces Orca Feature Doc


Terra Mater Studios has unveiled the new feature Orca—Black & White Gold, from Emmy-winning writer Mark Monroe (The Dissident, The Cove) and director Sarah Nörenberg.

The film provides a never-before-seen look into the international trade of endangered orcas, with unprecedented access to activists, former orca trainers and capturers, as well as the mobster businessman who is behind the multimillion-dollar trade. It reveals how the export of an American business model has influenced the illegal trade of wild orcas across continents.

Terra Mater Studios is using a hybrid strategy to maximize the film’s distribution and reach audiences everywhere. It is actively interested in partnering with distributors, while retaining educational rights to private and virtual events, with organizations such as One Voice.

Several orcas are still in captivity around the world, making the film an urgent call to action to audiences to help campaign against the trade and help save the animals from a life of forced breeding and captivity. Currently, the only family of captive orcas in the world lives in Antibes, France, and they are under the threat of being sent to another marine park. One Voice has successfully campaigned to forbid the relocation of the orcas until an independent expert assessment has been completed.

To release captured orcas to seaside sanctuaries, Terra Mater Studios is actively working with organizations such as The Earth Island Institute, which was responsible for the release of Keiko, the orca star of Free Willy.

Orca—Black & White Gold has already won several festival awards, including best feature at the Jackson Wild Media Awards and the HP Social Impact Prize at Blue Water Film Festival. It will be screening in Cannes on May 20 from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the IMAX Cineum Cannes, in cooperation with Blue Water Institute. It will be followed by a Q&A with Nörenberg and Muriel Arnal, president of the French NGO One Voice. The documentary marks Nörenberg’s directorial debut.

“I made this film after realizing that even 31 years after Free Willy and 11 years after Blackfish, we still have just as many orcas in captivity around the world,” Nörenberg said. “The market is just shifting from the West to the East. Orca—Black & White Gold is shining a spotlight on the realities of orca capture and captivity in the Far East, continuing the legacy of rallying public audiences to reject a morally bankrupt international market. The commercial value for orcas (former approx. $10 million per animal) only increased further after the trade seized with Russia. This business of exhibiting marine mammals for shows originated in the West by SeaWorld and is still active. We have the moral duty as a society and as a role model for the children visiting these parks, to convey meaningful education and retire these intelligent sentient beings into seaside sanctuaries whenever possible.”

Arnal said, “Russia was a major player in the captivity industry, generating millions of dollars and an immense suffering for the orcas as the film demonstrates so accurately. But the trade for shows goes on, and in France, the only orca family in captivity in the world is under threat of a transfer to another dolphinarium. I truly hope that the audience watching Sarah’s movie will open their eyes and hearts, as it should be the final nail in the coffin of this abhorrent industry.”