Film Review : Blackfish (2013)

IMDB Score – 8.0
Rotten Tomato Score – 98%

Directed By – Gabriela Cowperthwaite

Notorious killer whale Tilikum is responsible for the deaths of three individuals, including a top killer whale trainer. Blackfish shows the sometimes devastating consequences of keeping such intelligent and sentient creatures in captivity.

Much the the films posters, this film is dark. Gabriela Cowperthwaite isn’t an experienced filmmaker but she has crafted a very grim and disturbing look into the practices and unethical events happening within the walls of Seaworld. I’ve never been to a place like Seaworld. I enjoy going to aquariums and zoos every once and a while because I find animals fascinating and love to see them in person. This is a film that is going to at least make me think a little more when it comes to putting animals in captivity. I should say however that I believe zoos can be an educational tool and really only branch into the ethical discussion when animals of considerable intelligence are involved. I don’t think insects, amphibians, and reptiles are longing for freedom as much as larger mammals are. This may be a controversial views but as long as they’re being taken care of I feel that in moderation animals in captivity can be beneficial in society. What Blackfish goes into detail exclaiming is that there are some animals that should not be held in captivity. I’d say a front runner and poster animal for that statement could be the Killer Whale.

The story of Tilikum, an enormous male bull, is both tragic and gruesome. Three people were killed at the fins of this enormous animal. Images of a savage beast are concocted in the mind but what the film tries to do is set up this story with facts and witness accounts of how these events occur and occur in numbers. These animals are being taken away from their mothers and families in the wild and trained to become a circus act for families on land. They are being held in small spaces in complete darkness for half the day and only emerge to do a few tricks. They are aggressive towards their fellow captives and are aggressive towards their trainers. The film is mostly talking heads and archival footage but there is a lot of grainy videos of such events without getting too graphic.

It’s a film that should be seen and I believe the film gets it right at the end when it states that in fifty years it’s a definite possibility that the act of holding these creatures in captivity was not only a bad idea but ultimately cruel and inhumane. It’s a heartbreaking and sad film but a rewarding and eye opening experience.


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