"How beautiful, how sad, and what a powerful message."
Dr. Jane Goodall,
Ph.D., DBE

Director's Statement

In 2018, I was among the millions of people worldwide who were captivated by J35, the orca mother known as Tahlequah. Carrying her deceased newborn’s body across the Salish Sea, she appeared to dance with her daughter through the waves, in a grief that was visceral to witness. 

In 2020, stranded indoors due to the Covid pandemic, Tahlequah entered my thoughts once more. I was sitting with the pain of the world around me, as well as with my own experiences of loss. As a teenager, I endured the deaths of my father and brother, among others. During the soul-searching of my pandemic isolation, I resolved to use those setbacks as the basis for my artistry and mission in the world.

Connecting Tahlequah’s mourning to that of my own, I became convinced that her struggle had not been in vain. To retell her true story through the magic of cinema, I partnered with the acclaimed Meinart Animation Studio in Vilnius, Lithuania to co-produce the film. Their frame-by-frame orca illustrations are supported by a lush orchestral soundtrack,  composed by Emmy and Grammy winner Lolita Ritmanis, and which I produced with Lolita and Grammy winners Amy Andersson and Mark Mattson. That soundtrack was recorded live with the Latvia Studio Orchestra, and interwoven into its aural landscape are actual archival sounds of Tahlequah as she carried her daughter’s body in 2018, captured by underwater hydrophones at the time and provided to our production by The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor, Washington.

Making this film, our team worked to bring attention to the plight of these endangered marine mammals in the face of the climate crisis. Tahlequah shows the painful future that lays ahead for orca and human alike if we do not change course. From the depths of the Salish Sea, her actions seem to echo across a world full of grief, asking us to do better. For her, for us, for our one planet. We are all Tahlequah. 

DANIEL KREIZBERG – Writer & Director


“Tahlequah the Whale: A Dance of Grief” is an award-winning animated short film from Meinart Animation Studio and writer & director Daniel Kreizberg.

Logline: In the aftermath of her newborn baby’s sudden death, orca mother Tahlequah carries her daughter’s body
across the Salish Sea in the incredible true story that captivated the world.

Spanning ten time zones, production took place in New York, LA & Vilnius, Lithuania. In September 2022 the USA Tahlequah team travelled to Lithuania, meeting the animators and screening a work-in-progress cut of the film:


Upon its completion, Tahlequah had its World Premiere in May 2023 at the Oscar-qualifying Animayo International Film Festival in Gran Canaria, Spain. 

At Animayo, it was awarded the “Special Mention of the Festival,” and the programming committee called it “heart-wrenching,” writing:  

“This deeply moving short film has managed to captivate us with its powerful and emotional narrative [and] stunning visual beauty. This masterpiece […] includes narration by Daniel Kreizberg himself, who not only directs but also lends his voice to guide the audience through this emotional journey.”   


Reactions & Press

“What a beautiful tribute you and your team have created, thank you for this act of beauty and kindness. Entirely accurate, deeply moving, you have made an important and lasting contribution.”
I cannot express how moving this film is. We at the Whale Sanctuary Project joined the world, and you, in watching the ‘tour of grief’ that Tahlequah displayed. We’ll never know why her daughter died, but it is clear that our species is harming that community of beings. You and your team have captured the poignancy of the southern residents and Tahlequah and I can’t thank you enough for placing all of this within human responsibility.”
“Thank you, Daniel, and everyone who participated in the creation of this film. Every bit of it is stunning and powerful. You created something beautiful out of such sadness and grief. And how you brought it into the struggles of present times. Heartfelt to the core. WOW!”
“Thank you for bringing Tahlequah’s story forward in this authentic portrayal. It is an emotional tribute to the culture and beauty of the Southern Residents.”
Stunning. I cried. Thank you so much for making this film, it will open many eyes and hearts.”
"This film is very emotional. It touched my heart and moved me.

A fabulous and moving story of pain and hope” that “imaginatively fictionalizes a tragic true story.”

 –Taxidrivers Magazinereporting from the Lucca Film Festival

Tahlequah the Whale: A Dance of Grief Swims with Blue Water Film Festival’s Top Animation Prize

 –Animation Magazine, reporting from the Blue Water Film Festival

The first night all eyes were on Daniel Kreizberg and his thrilling Tahlequah The Whale: A Dance of Grief […]” 

 –Cinemanía Magazine, reporting from the Animayo International Film Festival

Festivals & awards


**WINNER – Special Mention – 18º Animayo International Film Festival – Gran Canaria, Spain**

WINNER – Honorable Mention – 2023 Jackson Wild Media Awards – Jackson Hole, USA

WINNER – Grand Jury Prize, Best Animated Film – 5º Blue Water Film Festival – San Diego, USA

WINNER – Animation Award – 20º International Ocean Film Festival – San Francisco, USA

WINNER – Canuto Prize, Best Documentary for Children – 18º DocsMX International Doc Festival – Mexico City, Mexico 

WINNER – Best Kids Film – 53º Sehsüchte International Student Film Festival – Potsdam, Germany

WINNER – Student Jury Prize, Best LFF for Future – 19º Lucca Film Festival – Lucca, Italy

WINNER – 8x Telly Awards (1x GOLD, 6x SILVER & 1x BRONZE) – 45º Telly Awards – USA

WINNER – Best Short by a First-Time Filmmaker 3º Next Generation Indie Film Awards – LA, USA

**OFFICIAL SELECTION – 32º St. Louis International Film Festival – St. Louis, USA** 

**OFFICIAL SELECTION – 21º Tirana International Film Festival – Tirana, Albania**

OFFICIAL SELECTION – 42º Enkarzine Film Festival – Basque Country, Spain

OFFICIAL SELECTION – 25º Marseille International Music & Cinema Festival – Marseille, France

OFFICIAL SELECTION – 25º Ismailia International Film Festival – Ismailia, Egypt

OFFICIAL SELECTION – 23º NaturVision Film Festival – Ludwigsburg, Germany

OFFICIAL SELECTION – 8º Valencia International Human Rights Film Festival – Valencia, Spain

OFFICIAL SELECTION – 8º Blon Animation and Games Festival – Klaipėda, Lithuania

OFFICIAL SELECTION – 7º SANFICI-Santander Film Festival – Santander, Columbia

NOMINEE – 2023 Movie Music UK Awards – “Best Original Score for an Animated Film” – LA, USA

NOMINEE – 11º Reel Music Awards – Best Original Score for a Short Film 

SHORTLIST – 2024 1.4 Awards – London, UK

SHORTLIST – 2023 Young Director Awards – Cannes, France

**denotes an Oscar-qualifying film festival**

As one of the award-winning films at Animayo, Tahlequah was featured in the “Best of Animayo” tour, with screenings at Walt Disney Animation Studios, Sony Pictures Animation, at the LightBox Expo at the Pasadena Civic, and in over 15+ cities in India. 

As a winner from the Blue Water Film Festival, a special DCI HDR remaster of the film by Barco was screened at Cineum Cannes during the 2024 Cannes Film Festival. 

As a winner from the International Ocean Film Festival, Tahlequah is currently part of the IOFF Traveling Program.

And, at the invitation of the Fondation Prince Albert II de Monaco, Tahlequah screened during Monaco Ocean Week in March 2024 at an event organized by The Animal Fund

Finally, before Tahlequah’s World Premiere, a private screening was held at New York City’s Bryant Park Hotel, below:



In September 2022, the Grammy-winning Tahlequah team recorded the film’s soundtrack with the Latvia Studio Orchestra in Riga. On July 24th, 2023 the album was released on Spotify and Apple Music to commemorate the five-year anniversary of Tahlequah’s journey of mourning. 

Soundtrack reviews

“A beautiful symphonic creation that […] achieves great emotional expressiveness.” — Conrado Xalabarder, Mundo BSO

“[A] stunning score. The story is sad and beautiful at the same time, and the gorgeous and emotional lines Ritmanis wrote are a perfect fit, in which you can hear the grief and love from a mother to her lost child.” —  Anton Smit, Soundtrack World

  “[An] astonishingly beautiful score […] lush, lyrical, emotional, passionate […] painting a lovely portrait of love and loss in the animal kingdom. The cello writing in “A Mother Mourns” is especially striking for its emotional resonance. The violin performance of the main theme in “A Phoenix Rises” is staggeringly beautiful, a hauntingly appropriate tribute to the depth of feeling between a mother and her child.” — Jonathan Broxton, Movie Music UK 


Get Involved

In July 2023, Daniel published an editorial in Canada’s National Observer entitled “A whale taught me how to live.” The piece discusses his personal experiences with loss, how Tahlequah inspired him to make this film, and the urgency of using grief to motivate positive change for orcas and humans alike. 

Shortly after being published, the article was featured by Hakai Magazine in their “What We’re Reading” list.

The Tahlequah team is currently organizing the film’s life beyond the festival circuit. The film will soon become available to audiences in conjunction with a list of organizations they can support, and actions they can take, to help save the southern resident orcas.

 Check back here throughout 2024 for updates, and be sure to follow us on Instagram in the meantime:


Production Stills


Daniel Kreizberg

director, screenwriter, NARRATOR

Daniel Kreizberg is an award-winning filmmaker and actor who graduated with Honors from NYU Tisch with a BFA in Acting. His debut short film, “Tahlequah the Whale: A Dance of Grief,” which he wrote, directed, and narrated in 2023, was awarded the “Special Mention of the Festival” at the Oscar-qualifying Animayo International Film Festival. It also received an Honorable Mention at the Jackson Wild Media Awards (“the nature equivalent to the Oscars”), the Canuto Prize at DocsMX, a Grand Jury Prize at the Blue Water Film Festival, the Animation Award at the International Ocean Film Festival, the Best Kids Film Award at the Sehsüchte Int’l Student Film Festival, a Student Jury Prize at the Lucca Film Festival, a Next Generation Indie Film Award, a Telly Gold Award, and continues to travel to festivals around the world. As an actor, Daniel made his New York stage debut at Carnegie Hall, performing the role of Lazarus Solomon in “Ellis Island: The Dream of America.” Daniel tells stories that focus on uncovering the truth of what it means to be alive, to help make a more compassionate world.

Akvilė Bliujūtė-Janušė


Akvilė Bliujūtė-Janušė is a Producer in the animation industry orientated around children’s short films. She graduated from Middlesex University and gained her first professional experience in Lithuania within the film industry. In 2017, Akvilė joined Meinart animation studio. During these years she has produced various projects ranging from commercials to music videos and short films.

Amy Andersson

Executive producer / Conductor
Grammy Award-winning conductor and producer Amy Andersson has toured to over twenty-two countries conducting operatic, symphonic, contemporary, film score and video game repertoire. Appearances on the Late Show with Stephen ColbertCBS Morning NewsCBS Evening News and press coverage in the Wall Street JournalForbes and Variety led music critic Norman Lebrecht to call her “America”s most watched Symphony Orchestra Conductor.”
Ms. Andersson is creator and director of Women Warriors: The Voices of Change, a documentary honoring the strength and heroism of global activists fighting for civil and human rights, environmental rights and the right of every girl to an education. Andersson is winner of a 2022 Grammy in “Best Classical Compendium” for the soundtrack which features the music by award-winning composers Anne-Kathrin Dern, Nathalie Bonin, Miriam Cutler, Isolde Fair, Sharon Farber, Starr Parodi, Penka Kouneva and Lolita Ritmanis. Andersson was awarded a BMI “Impact Award” and Society of Composers and Lyricists “Jury Award” for Women Warriors.
Ms. Andersson is a member of the Recording Academy, advisory board member of the Alliance for Women Film Composers, faculty at the Hollywood Music Workshop in Baden, Austria and adjunct professor at the USC Thornton School of Music, Screen Scoring. 

meinardas valkevičius

Executive producer

Meinardas has been interested in and creating animation since childhood. In 2010, he graduated from the Vilnius Academy of Arts with a BA in animation. The final Academy work “The Impossible Moon” has travelled to a number of global film festivals and attracted lots of attention. In 2012 Meinardas founded the animation studio “Meinart,” whose main vision is to create bright and creative animation in search of new narrative forms. Meinardas’s goal is to invest part of his company’s profits in the creation of short and feature animations that will make people stop and think. As a director, he created a series of short animated films including RGB, The Case, Hunt, and LOOK. His newest film The Perfect Fit was released in 2022. Meinardas continues to develop new ideas and prepares to introduce new films.

Gabija Visockaitė

Art Director

Gabija Visockaite is a talented illustrator / graphic designer from Vilnius. In 2021 she graduated from the Vilnius Academy of Arts, with a BA in graphic design. She has experience illustrating in the field of animation, and in the design of comics and books. Her illustrations are dynamic and positive, with a focus on extracting the ambient atmosphere and characterization of characters.

Martyna Striukaitė

Art Director

During her five years working in advertising, Martyna has tried a variety of storytelling techniques, while at the same time trying to meet the expectations of both clients and audiences. In recent years, she has had an opportunity to express herself by writing scripts for animated commercials, and at the same time, her love for animation and interesting stories has grown even stronger. Since she’s admired these two things since her parents introduced cable to Cartoon Network at home, she looks forward to combining her hobbies and experiences into one engaging animation.

Lolita Ritmanis


A member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Class of 2021, Lolita Ritmanis is an Emmy Award-winning and 10-time Emmy Award-nominated composer, as well as a Grammy Award-winning music producer, earning the coveted statue in 2022 for her work on “Women Warriors: The Voices of Change.” Lolita was Oscar shortlisted for her 70 minute symphonic and choral score for the feature film Blizzard of Souls, which in 2021 had already earned her numerous awards. Lolita is one of the founders of the Alliance for Women Film Composers.

Her symphonic work Overture to Light received its 2018 U.S. premiere at Carnegie Hall. In addition to Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, her music has been performed at The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., Koerner Hall in Toronto, Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, The Krakow International Film Music Festival, Fimucité International Film Music Festival in Tenerife, Canary Islands, and Playfest in Ubeda, Spain.

Other career highlights include her original score for Christmas in Rome for Hallmark, the documentary Wild Daze (featuring Jane Goodall), music for the gender parity series Flip the Script (starring Lake Bell), Young Justice, Batman: The Killing Joke (starring Mark Hamill), Justice League (the theme, composed by Lolita, received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination), Batman Beyond (Emmy Award Win), Teen Titans, Ben 10, Batman: The Animated Series, as well as composing score and songs for the Primetime Emmy Award-nominated musical Batman: The Brave and the Bold: Mayhem of the Music Meister (starring Neil Patrick Harris).

On May 9th, 2018 Lolita was honored with the BMI Champion Award. A dedicated mentor, Ritmanis is on the faculty of the USC Film Scoring Program, has been a guest instructor at Columbia College Chicago’s MFA program in Music Composition for the Screen, as well as presented seminars at Berklee College of Music, NYU, UCLA, CalArts, and Hong Kong Baptist University. 


Email: daniel {@} danielkreizberg.com

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