Blackfish [Reviewed]


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“Blackfish tells the story of Tilikum, a notoriously aggressive orca that killed three people while in captivity. Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite uses shocking footage and emotional interviews to present a convincing case against keeping these wild animals for human entertainment.”

Blackfish is one of the most disturbing documentaries I have watched in recent memory, it is an ugly story one which SeaWorld tried to hide from the view of the public for many years. One theme that prevails throughout the entire film is that, ocra’s should not be kept in captivity and used as trained performers. Because as the documentary points out the dangers for both orca and trainer are overwhelming. The documentary follows Tilikum, one of the largest male orca in captivity today. It has been documented that he has killed as many as three trainers too date. Yet SeaWorld still keeps him for entertainment and breeding purposes.

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Blackfish cuts back and forth between interviews with people telling their emotional experiences and stories with footage of them working with these whales. It becomes apparent that these people obviously love the animals and don’t blame them in any way for these attacks. Instead they blame the circumstances and SeaWorld for keeping these animals in confined spaces and abusing them when they did not perform in the manner they wanted. When Tilikum first arrived he was taken away from his mother, and the female orcas would “rake” him, or scratch him with their teeth due to them being kept in confined spaces.

The last high profile attack happened back in 2010, when a SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by Tilikum. SeaWorld reaction at first was that she slipped and fell into the water. They then changed their story saying Tilikum grabbed her by her ponytail, which she evidently was not supposed to have. Yet many eye witness accounts and an autopsy report tell a different story. That Tilikum attacking her, biting her arm and dragging her under drowning her in the process. It is both creepy, and sad to see the trainers that died training and interacting with these animals before their death. The documentary does not show the actual attacks, but it does include footage leading up to them.

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Surprisingly enough Tilikum still remains at SeaWorld too this day, where he is still used to splash the crowd, though he is not allowed to do tricks with the trainer’s any-more. And the most horrifying thing? He has fathered a large number of orcas currently held in captivity at SeaWorld and at other places, raising the possibility of his behaviour being passed on to his children which might cause more of these tragic events to happen the in near future. The documentary Blackfish cannot change what happened, but it might change the way the people gather for these shows and watched this documentary think. Yes watching these animals is both educational and entertaining. But is it worth it?

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About Charl den Dulk

I am a cucumber in a fruit bowl.
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