Filmmaker Q&A: Stan Minasian

A Fall from Freedom

The story of “Free Willy”—aka Keiko—dramatized the lives of orcas kept captive in oceanariums and sea parks. But the story is much wider than that. Throughout the world there are other species of cetaceans, especially dolphins, held captive for public entertainment. “A Fall from Freedom” is a comprehensive history of these facilities and shows why these sentient beings deserve better.

What was your inspiration for creating the film? Thirty years of being involved in animal welfare documentaries, concentrating on marine mammal issues.

What was the most challenging part of creating the film? Securing the funding and obtaining enough visuals of the marine parks and the issues to make the film compelling.

What do you want to impart on your film’s viewers? To not only become aware of the history of this business, but to take action (or non-action) by not attending these parks or aquariums. Also, by supporting those facilities that are not involved in the display of marine mammals.

What was the most enjoyable part of creating the film? Seeing the public's reaction to issues presented in this film that were little known and seeing them ask themselves questions about these issues.

Who (or what) is your inspiration? Having dived with whales and dolphins all over the world and seeing how they thrive in their natural environment and with their herd members. Contrast this to a concrete tank, forced to perform the same monotonous show over and over again with animals from different regions of the world.

How or why did you begin creating ocean-focused films? I am an ocean-oriented person, having been raised in San Francisco and a member of the U.S. Coast Guard. The killing of dolphins during tuna fishing was an issue I buried myself in for over 20 years and am proud to have been a part of the effort to create "dolphin-safe" tuna.

Why did you choose to submit your film to the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival? It is local, it is a progressive city, and it is ocean-related. The audience, I would hope, should feel empathy for these animals if they understood the total dynamic of the dolphin display industry.

Is this your first time participating in an ocean-focused film festival? No. I submitted a film several years back that was accepted: “The Farallon Islands: Past, Present, and Future”.

What was the most memorable moment in creating the film? Coming to the point where I knew I had put as much energy into the film to tell a compelling story as possible without too much or too little material. This is a very difficult thing to do.