The true story of Tahlequah, a southern resident killer whale, riveted much of the world back in 2018, when it made international headlines. As she pushed her deceased calf through the waters of the Salish Sea for seventeen consecutive days, people from around the world bore witness to her thousand mile journey of grief. They remarked: “I have not slept in days;” “it has broken my heart;” and “I can’t stop crying. I can’t sleep. My heart is aching.”
“Tahlequah the Whale: A Dance of Grief” is a meditation on grief and making community out of hardship, set against the backdrop of the climate crisis that imperils us all-orca and human alike. Our international co-production features illustrations from Lithuania’s renowned Meinart Animation Studio, and an original soundtrack by a Grammy and Emmy award-winning team.
Daniel Kreizberg is a multi-hyphenate actor, director and writer. He made his stage debut at Carnegie Hall performing in “Ellis Island: The Dream of America,” and has since appeared at numerous more intimate venues while starring and co-starring in both short and feature-length films. In addition, he has written, directed, and acted in several of his own short films. Recently, he scripted a limited series based on selected stories from his life, “A Day of Daniel,” for which he is currently seeking a producer. 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 debut animated short.
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.
Grammy award-winning conductor and producer Amy Andersson has toured to over twenty-two countries conducting operatic, symphonic, and video game repertoire. Appearances on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, CBS Morning News, CBS Evening News and press coverage in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Variety led music critic Norman Lebrecht to call her “America”s most watched Symphony Orchestra Conductor.”
Ms. Andersson is also 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. The 2022 Grammy-winning soundtrack features music by award-winning composers Anne-Kathrin Dern, Nathalie Bonin, Miriam Cutler, Isolde Fair, Sharon Farber, Starr Parodi, Penka Kounev and Lolita Ritmanis.
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 Feirstein Graduate School for Cinema in Brooklyn, where she teaches conducting to film and media scoring students.
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.
I was among the millions of people around the world who were captivated by Tahlequah’s thousand-mile journey of mourning, back in 2018. Pushing her child’s body through the water for seventeen consecutive days, this orca mother appeared to dance with her daughter through the waves, in a grief that was visceral to witness. I was touched by the responses that poured in from around the world, as a community of people—in an act of cross-species empathy—mourned alongside Tahlequah.
In 2020, as I was stranded indoors due to the Covid pandemic, Tahlequah entered my thoughts once more. I was in the midst of sitting with the grief of the pandemic-stricken world around me, as well as with my own experiences of loss. As a teenager, I experienced the deaths of my father and brother, among others. My family shattered and shrunk in just a few short years, and I was changed forever.
I was riveted by the idea that Tahlequah’s struggle may not have been in vain. I soon became deeply inspired to retell her true story through the magic of animation. Over the last year, our team has worked tirelessly in a labor of love to bring greater attention to the plight of these endangered marine mammals in the face of the climate crisis.
Tahlequah shows us the future that lies ahead for all of us 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 – Director