Documentary "Blackfish" highlights the tormented circumstances killer whales face in captivity and the subsequent harm they inflict on humans as a result.
The case in point is a 2010 incident in which a 12,000-pound orca killed a trainer at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida.
Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite documents how such incidents happen when these massive animals are held against their will.
Studies have shown that the giant marine mammals have human-like self-awareness, an ability to communicate and organize complex societies, making them similar to some great apes.
Blackfish follows the orca involved in the incident, from the age of two, when he was kidnapped from his mother in the North Atlantic and severely mistreated throughout his adult life by park officials and other killer whales.
SeaWorld has released a statement accusing the film of painting "a distorted picture" of its facility, calling it "inaccurate and misleading."
"Blackfish" hits limited U.S. theaters in July.