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 animation is supported by a lush orchestral soundtrack, which was composed by Emmy and Grammy winner Lolita Ritmanis, produced by Grammy winners Amy Andersson, Mark Mattson, and Varis Kurmins, and recorded live by members of the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra. Woven into this 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 over the last year and a half, our team worked tirelessly 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 animated short film from Meinart Animation Studio and writer & director Daniel Kreizberg.
Spanning ten time zones, production on Tahlequah ran from September 2021 until November 2022. Daniel Kreizberg led the production remotely from New York City, coordinating the visuals with Meinart in Vilnius, while developing the soundtrack with Grammy winners Lolita Ritmanis and Mark Mattson in LA.
In September 2022, the USA Tahlequah team travelled to Riga, Latvia to record the film’s soundtrack with a live studio orchestra and make media appearances on TV, radio, and in print. Following this, they travelled to Vilnius, Lithuania to meet the animators in person for the first time, color correcting the film and screening a work-in-progress cut.
MEINART REUNION VIDEO
Upon its completion, Tahlequah secured film festival distribution with Agencia Freak, a renowned distributor in Málaga, Spain.
Reactions & Press
“The first night all eyes were on Daniel Kreizberg and his thrilling Tahlequah The Whale: A Dance of Grief […]”
– Cinemania, reporting on the Oscar-qualifying Animayo Film Festival in Gran Canaria, Spain
director, screenwriter, executive producer
Daniel Kreizberg is an actor & filmmaker. He graduated with Honors from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, with a BFA in Drama (Acting). Daniel made his New York stage debut at Carnegie Hall, performing the role of Lazarus Solomon in “Ellis Island: The Dream of America.” He has since appeared at numerous more intimate venues, while appearing in both short and feature-length films. In addition, he has produced and starred in multiple short films. He tells stories that veer from the hyper-naturalistic to the expressionistic, with a focus on uncovering the truth of what it means to be alive to help make a more compassionate world.
“Tahlequah the Whale: A Dance of Grief” is his directorial debut.
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.
Executive producer / Conductor
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 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.
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.
A member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Class of 2021, Lolita Ritmanis is an Emmy Award-winning and10- 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.
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