Authors: In 2013 the export of 18 beluga whales to USA from Russia was banned. Initially they were caught to be sold and exported to Georgia Aquarium. We learned about this by reading actress Kim Basinger's open letter to President Putin in the media reports where she begged him to set those beluga whales free. We rejoiced at the fact that such a ban was made possible. But realizing that belugas' journey in Russia still not over we made up our mind to find them. They have been kept at the Utrishskaya marine station at the Black Sea (Russia). The moment we managed to see big white whales in small tanks we were astounded. Nowadays the belugas are still imprisoned there unseen by the public eye behind a tall fence. Their owner still hopes to sell them to the USA and pinning his hopes on a court of justice.
Yet, our film dwells not solely on this story that has not seen its ending so far. It is only a tiny piece of a giant puzzle called industry of cetaceans in captivity. A while ago it was reported that two orcas had remained hidden in old rusty tanks in Moscow. Doomed to a complete isolation, crammed into an extremely narrow space, the animals have been waiting there for more than a year for an oceanarium to be inaugurated. Now there are already three of them, the third one been brought there, as well.
In course of our investigation we were confronted with the seamy side of this infamous business which involves a great deal of agents, money and animals' suffering. We learned that Russia now is the only country where wild belugas and orcas are captured and sold to oceanariums around the world. We found that the mortality rate in course of beluga captures may reach up to 50 percent. It would mean 50 deaths per 100 of animals retrieved from the ocean. This is the price for the beluga whales shows people attend in oceanariums in the USA, Canada, China and other countries. As for the orcas, the price of one whale sold to China makes up approximately 10 mln USD, and usually several of them are sold at once. Each year the animals are captured in ever increasing numbers.
Our film is not in the slightest aimed against any certain person and no one can accuse us of evoking bias or acting out of venality. Our mission is to reveal the truth about the industry of dolphinaria to a broader public, to show the way captures and transportations are carried out, to share the opinion of prominent experts in the field who will specify what captivity means for dolphins.
Above all, we intend to celebrate free dolphins and beluga whales in the wild. Indeed, our film is dedicated to freedom.
Our director and producer Gayane Petrosyan is a professional documentary filmmaker. There is a bunch of cinema profs engaged in the Born Free production. However, what constitutes a significant part of our lives is that we are freedivers. We swim and dive with free dolphins and other cetaceans in their natural environment and are blessed to see them happy and free in the Ocean. We dare say they are not inferior to humans intellectually, perhaps, even superior, in some respect. Apart from the horrors of dolphinaria we want to stress the contrast which needs no comments – dolphins in captivity and those living free. This contrast is the best argument in favour of freedom.
Chlorine and other disinfectants contained in water cause damage to dolphins' skin and eyes.
In the wild dolphins cover a distance of 150 km a day on average and dive at a depth of about 100 m. Compare these numbers to the size of dolphinarium tanks these animals are kept in.
Sound waves by means of which dolphins orient themselves and communicate get reflected from the tank's walls which may inflict upon the animals a considerable physical pain
Dolphins are often believed to smile in captivity and to willingly perform tricks. In fact, in so doing they merely earn food. Whereas what we misread as a smile is nothing but a design feature of their facial muscles. Eventually dolphins suffer from a depression in captivity. Sometimes they even commit suicide.
As social and highly intelligent creatures dolphins display strong familial bonds. In captivity they are separated from their families and mates and placed in an environment deeply alien to them. Once and for ever. This is equal to a life sentence.
Producer, director and writer Gayane Petrosyan is an award-winning documentalist, author of more than 20 documentaries, chief executive of Baikal Cinema studios. Gayane's core activity includes films dealing with social problematic, environmental conservation and a harmonious cohabitation of humans with nature. She cooperates with the United Nations and IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare). She is a full member of the Russian Geographical Society.
„I am sure that a straightforward movie about dolphinaria and oceanaria is even more indispensable for humans, than for dolphins. A society which incessantly cultivates a human's right to deprive other rational beings of their freedom for the mere sake of the former's whims and entertainment under no circumstances can be defined healthy and advocating humanitarian values. It may be slightly immodest to say so about the film you are working on, but still I do believe that such films as Born Free give us a chance to become better“.
Tatyana Beley and Yulia Petrik are co-authors and camera operators of movie, authors and participants of underwater shootings. And they are genuine mermaids boasting a unique experience of socialising and interacting with free dolphins and whales in various seas and oceans.
Yulia Petrik is the first Russia's champion in freediving, prize winner of international competitions, Master Instructor and international judge of International Association of Development of Freediving, yoga instructor of the International Yoga Federation (IYF), founder and Director of the first Freediving School in Russia, and underwater filmmaker, shooting in freediving mode. She made journeys to more than 50 countries in course of a unique „collection“ of seas and isles in the waters of all four oceans from the Polar circle down to the southern tropics.
Tatyana Beley is also the author of original idea and the creative producer of film. She is an anchorperson and broadcast author of the Russian television, song writer and singer, freediving instructor and underwater filmmaker, shooting in freediving mode. Tatyana loves and trust the sea to such a great extent that even her small daughter was born right in the ocean last year.
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