Blackfish (2013)

Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 6:54 PM | Posted in


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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 9.8/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 9/10

BLACKFISH (2013) - Gabriela Cowperthwaite

Even if people argue that animals are different from humans, the process of keeping creatures in captivity is morally questionable. In this case, we are dealing with dolphins and whales, which have been scientifically studied to be the closest animal to humans in intelligence. They have problem solving skills, social traits, and even a portion of their brains that reside in emotion. In a similar fashion as the 2009 Best Documentary winner The CoveBlackfish brings us into the world of orca killer whales and the circumstances that they are living in in captivity.

Blackfish is a Sundance Official Selection documentary that mainly revolves around Tilikum, a 22.5 feet long bull orca that has been living in captivity since his capture in 1983. He is the largest orca in captivity today, and is most notoriously known for being involved in the deaths of three people, the third victim, Dawn Bracheau, being the main focus of Blackfish. The documentary also explores the moral ethics behind keeping whales captive as well as the inside talk that SeaWorld and business people go through during each controversial incident, all in the backdrop of interviews among whale researchers and former SeaWorld whale trainers.

To begin with, the documentary reveals that SeaWorld lies about the "fact" that whales in captivity live longer than out in the wild. Clearly, there has been scientific evidence that killer whales can have nearly the same lifespan as humans.

What Blackfish does best at is it immediately begins by telling us what happened to Tilikum and why he is a popular orca whale. In fact, the documentary begins with a short conversation about the description of the Dawn's death. Afterwards, through several interviews, the film spends the first half personifying and humanizing not only Tilikum, but all orca whales in general. From the deaths of baby orcas during capture to Tilikum being harassed by fellow captive whales, we slowly understand that all these incidents and living conditions build up or contribute to what is inevitably going to be aggression. The most tragic thing is... the people who pay for it are the whale trainers... the people who didn't do anything, and more, attempt to bond with the whales.

There is also a scene where a mother orca has her daughter taken away from her, moved to another park. The response of the mother is so heartbreaking, you can almost feel the humanity, the soul, and the heart behind that grieving creature...

Though the documentary may appear to be a bit manipulative or maybe even one-sided, Blackfish, with the help of the director, provides just enough factual evidence to back up their statements. These range from court dialogue to past news broadcasts to newspaper articles. The subject alone may be a smaller less widespread one than other award-winning contenders, but the film itself remains faithful and deep in its content and successfully makes its subject become an important one, no matter how small its scope is.

In the end, when we look at the incidents caused by Tilikum and other whales, incidents that have spanned over twenty years, we conclude what lessons we have learned. The answer is nothing. We have learned absolutely nothing for twenty years and we are still allowing these unnecessary deaths and accidents to occur. Worse, the media has the power to go on and accuse the wrong side. Once we are given a chance to look at both sides of the aisle, we can't help but just think "How dare they?"

In conclusion, Blackfish is a compelling haunting documentary that makes us rethink about whales in captivity in SeaWorld. I, for sure, am not going to look at SeaWorld and other aquatic parks the same way again. This should and will be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary, and I will be there to support it if it actually wins. Emotionally stirring and magnetic to watch, Blackfish delivers like a heart-pounding eye-opener, with enough factual evidence and storytelling to shock and compel. In the end, when we see the former whale trainers go out into the wild to observe wild killer whales, we understand that these creatures are meant to be in the wild, meant to be together as a family, meant to be free.


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