UPDATED 8/9/13 to reflect a change to the Q&A at the Little.
In the provocative new documentary "Blackfish," director Gabriela Cowperthwaite examines the treatment of orca whales in SeaWorld theme parks, demonstrating the dangers (to both the animals as well as their human trainers) of keeping these fiercely intelligent, but often misunderstood, creatures in captivity. She focuses specifically on Tilikum, the sadly now notorious whale responsible for the deaths of three people over the course of his 30-year "career." She argues that his behavior was inevitable, the result of the trauma he suffered by living under the conditions in which the animals are typically kept.
Cowperthwaite uses interviews with marine life researchers, former SeaWorld employees, and some absolutely bone-chilling footage of several orca attacks, to back up her thesis, and the result is surprisingly emotional. It's difficult hearing the experts describe the behavior exhibited by the animals, and their capacity for emotional understanding on the level of any human. Listening to the trainers speak of their experiences, it's clear the attachment they feel for the animals they worked with and it's that bond that led them to speak out against the practices at parks like SeaWorld. The case the film makes is nothing new, and the horrifying consequences of forcing wild animals to perform for our entertainment have been well-documented, but this gut punch of a movie is bound to make those arguments stick with you.
The Little will host a special screening of "Blackfish" at on Tuesday, August 13, 7 p.m. with a live Skype Q&A with one of the trainers interviewed in the film, before the film begins its regular run at the theater starting August 16.
Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer is renowned for creating stunning, photorealistic paintings at a time when photography didn't yet exist, and without any documented formal training. Directed by Teller -- of illusionist/comedy duo Penn & Teller fame -- the engrossing new documentary, "Tim's Vermeer," follows the efforts by Texas inventor and entrepreneur Tim Jenison to prove his theory that the artist utilized optical devices to achieve the seemingly impossible.
Jenison makes for a charismatic subject, and in his obsessive need to crack Vermeer's method, he demonstrates limitless ingenuity. Creating a device that adds mirrors to a traditional camera obscura, the inventor sets out to perfectly duplicate Vermeer's 1662 painting, "The Music Lesson," despite the fact that he has never painted in his life. Jenison begins by hand-building a life-size recreation of the room depicted in the painting, and things just get nuttier from there. The results of his experiment are a fascinating examination of art, technology, and what, if anything, separates the two. -- Adam Lubitow