Only a few years after the 2013 Sundance Film Festival premiere of Blackfish - an independent documentary film that critiqued the treatment of orcas in captivity - visits to SeaWorld declined, major corporate sponsors pulled their support, and performing acts canceled appearances. The steady drumbeat of public criticism, negative media coverage, and unrelenting activism became known as the "Blackfish Effect". In 2016, SeaWorld announced a stunning corporate policy change - the end of its profitable orca shows.
In an evolving networked era, social-issue documentaries like Blackfish are art for civic imagination and social critique. Today's documentaries interrogate topics like sexual assault in the US military (The Invisible War), racial injustice (13th), government surveillance (Citizenfour), and more. Artistic nonfiction films are changing public conversations, influencing media agendas, mobilizing communities, and capturing the attention of policymakers - accessed by expanding audiences in a transforming media marketplace. In Story Movements, producer and scholar Caty Borum Chattoo explores how documentaries disrupt dominant cultural narratives through complex, creative, often investigative storytelling.