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Without a doubt Blackfish is one of the most horrific theatre
experiences you'll have this year. Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite
presents a very carefully constructed case on the effects of inhumane
treatment of Orcas in captivity. The one-sided argument is that the
untimely human deaths caused by captive Orcas were not their fault but
rather the fault of their captors; SeaWorld, and the evidence proving
this point is so disturbing and so shockingly obvious that it's no
wonder SeaWorld refused to be interviewed.
The story centers on Tilikum, a 12,000 lbs. Orca that is directly responsible for the death of 3 people, including Dawn Brancheau the former senior trainer at SeaWorld in Orlando. The film explores the reasoning behind the likely "psychosis" Tilikum has experienced in captivity, and the disgusting cover up executives have tried to make.
While SeaWorld naturally refused to be interviewed, the films perspective mostly derives from former trainers/employees of SeaWorld and other various experts. Their experience working with Orcas - most having dedicated their lives to it - is truly heart breaking. Presenting the theory, the evidence and finally a solution to the topic at hand, Blackfish is a marvellous story that will have you as tearful as the trainers that sincerely care for the well being of the creatures.
Blackfish doesn't just show a bunch of disgruntled former employees bashing SeaWorld either. The greatest technique employed in this film is its use of footage from shows featuring these trainers when they were younger. There's something so mesmerizing about watching the smiling young trainers play with their best friend while hearing their older self reminisce in voice over. Hearing a harsh critique of SeaWorld only seems right coming from the people it meant the most to.
While we've always known Orca's are intelligent creatures Cowperthwaite dedicates a lot of the film to demonstrating their capacity for emotions as well; watching them over time build connections with their trainers and each other. So by the time they show us their capture and captivity and witness the pain felt the whales, Tilikum especially, we know that their violent behavior is a direct result of SeaWorld. Killer Whales having never harmed a human in the wild.
I want to go through every point made by the movie but I won't. You need to see this for yourselves. The facts aren't what drive this film, the emotion behind them do. This is one of those movies you just won't stop talking about, and for the subject matter that's the best compliment it can receive. In the end sharing this information is what's going to help these Orcas.
Between the gripping footage and the distressing stories Blackfish effectively proves its point. There are very few movies like this; a must-see. There is no way after seeing this movie that you'll ever want to go to SeaWorld again, and for the sake of the animals that's the only thing we can do for them. Since it's made quite clear; the only thing affecting their decision-making is: how many Shamu dolls and tickets they've sold.
Let me know on Twitter @thejoshl what you thought of Blackfish!
Let's go to the theme park to see the Orcas. Playful, interacting with
their trainers who swim with them carefree it is a guaranteed spectacle
and fun time.
Do we ever consider, that these intelligent creatures spent a lifetime enclosed in a large bathtub so that we can be entertained? Imagine going to see a show of children ballerinas knowing that those children spent their entire lives locked up in a room when not performing. Would anyone stand for this? Surely not, I would hope.
This riveting and didactic documentary explores the owner's attitudes when occasionally those animals flip out and act in an aggressive way. It is always the trainers fault, or the bad manners of the animals. In fact, it appears that those who run those theme parks have gone out of their way to hide the truth which is those who work with killer whales are in great risk.
The death of a long-time and renowned trainer brought the issue to the surface where enquiries had to be made.
We might be better informed about the risks involved but the rather lax legislature regarding animal rights allows these companies to still operate and oppress animals in an inhuman way.
Well made and runs high on emotion, it will make the viewer contemplate on the scale of human tyrannism.
The documentary "Blackfish" just premiered at Sundance to much deserved rave reviews. It's a compelling story of a 12,000 pound orca who has been in captivity since 1983 when he was captured at the age of two. New footage and interviews with trainers who worked at SeaWorld (and left disillusioned) add dynamic interest to the overall question of whether or not these wild intelligent sentient animals should be kept in captivity. This is a story that will have you questioning what you thought you knew. See "Blackfish" if you're interested in orcas; see it if you're interested in the truth; see it for no other reason than to find out why SeaWorld doesn't want you to see it. This film moves with the fluidity of a wild orca in the ocean. Don't miss out on seeing "Blackfish" because it's going to change the way you think.
I saw this documentary at the Sundance film festival London. I travelled down from Manchester as i could not wait for the Uk cinema release. After Seeing The Cove in 2009 after swimming with Captive Dolphins myself in 2006 to get over a family bereavement x 2. I never knew what dolphins did in captivity - just that it was one of the things i wanted to do before i die. After seeing them entertain people again & again, eat dead fish & float in a small tank all day i needed to see the pain Orcas go through. I'm glad Blackfish has been made. YOU need to see this film if you love mammals & any other intelligent animal in captivity...My eyes were opened at The Cove....if this doesn't then you are very selfish....Money is defo the Rule of all Evil. I will be taking all my friends & family to see this. After 5 days I am still thinking about it & can't believe these parks are still open :(
This is a thought-provoking documentary on Tilikum, an Orca that has
been at Sea World since 1983 and who is responsible for the death of 3
people (2 of his trainers, and 1 man who snuck into his tank). This is
a film about the horrors that these animals go through being kept in
captivity for our pleasure and the latest film to showcase how horrible
Sea World can be for the very animals it claims to protect, oh the
If you thought watching 'The Cove' was difficult, I suggest you take tissues if you plan on seeing this. 2 days later and I still can't stop thinking about this movie or get rid of some of the images and sounds shown.
I highly recommend this doc. Go see it with an open mind, I guarantee that you will never see captivity the same way again.
"If you were in a bathtub for 25 years, don't you think you'd get a little psychotic?!"
Greetings again from the darkness. Dogs, cats, fish, birds, hamsters,
ferrets, snakes, and even pigs. We love our pets. We also love our
zoos, city aquariums and SeaWorld parks. For many years, we have chosen
to believe that the research and educational advances that come from
these outlets outweigh any of the negatives involved with keeping wild
animals in captivity. Filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite shows us (by
focusing on SeaWorld) that it's way past time for us to open our eyes
to the cruelty involved with the capture and training of wild animals
for entertainment purpose.
The points made here are not speculation. We witness numerous interviews with "former" SeaWorld trainers. It's clear these people thought they had a bond with their co-performers. Most never even mention the term "killer whale" ... the common moniker for the majestic creatures better known as Orcas. The interviews have great impact, and when combined with startling TV news clips and footage from audience members, it becomes obvious that the huge profits and entertainment offered to families, are quite frankly generated by an immoral and inexcusable business model.
Most of the story is tied together by the 2010 death of super-trainer Dawn Brancheau by Tilikum, the largest Orca in the SeaWorld group. What we soon learn is that Tilikum was captured in Iceland waters at the age of three, and has since had many incidents resulting in injuries and even three deaths. It's also stated that Tilikum is the head of the family tree for the majority of SeaWorld's performing Orcas.
Of course, no one can or should blame these incredibly intelligent and emotional and family-oriented creatures. Everything about their existence goes against their natural habitat and way of life. The real issue is ... just because we CAN capture and train these animals, does that mean we SHOULD? If the focus is profits, then the answer is apparently yes. If instead, the focus is respecting nature and valuing other species, then the answer is much different.
The Cove and Project Nim are two other documentaries that come to mind when thinking about filmmakers attempting to expose the danger in training wild animals. Watching this story had me hanging my head like the fisherman from the 1970's as he helped capture a young whale, as the family members swam nearby crying and screeching. Let's hope director Cowperthwaite's screams are heard. See this movie before deciding to visit another SeaWorld (who couldn't be bothered to comment on camera). There are better ways to teach your kids about nature and there are certainly less cruel forms of entertainment.
In February 2010, reports of the accidental death of a killer whale
trainer, Dawn Brancheau, at SeaWorld, Orlando featured in newspapers
and TV bulletins across the globe. How could such a tragedy occur? What
on earth was Brancheau thinking? How could she make such a silly
mistake? Then the story changed and it appeared this very experienced
trainer was attacked by the orca, Tilikum. Shockwaves rippled. What? A
gentle giant killed a human that cared for it? Suddenly killer whales
lived up to their fearsome moniker and became the villains of the
Then the story changed again and the truth began to emerge
Blackfish is a startling documentary from Gabriela Cowperthwaite that investigates the reality behind the sparkling waters and bright lights of the SeaWorld parks, not that they are alone in their mistreatment of these startling, intelligent, beautiful creatures. She trawls through the archives to reveal that Brancheau's death was neither a freak accident nor an isolated attack from a vicious animal, but just one of many examples since humans decided it was acceptable to kidnap young orcas for the pleasure and pockets of humans. Kidnap? Is such a strong word appropriate? Watch Blackfish, listen to the mother make "sounds we've never heard an orca make before" in a harrowing display of grief and then decide.
Watching Blackfish and still choosing to visit SeaWorld or another such aquatic zoo is surely on the same level as taking your kids to McDonalds even though you know you're poisoning them. If I were reviewing the subject of Blackfish, like 2009's powerfully distressing The Cove, it would surely warrant a perfect score. Upon the evidence here, even if you've chosen not to see the truth of our actions in the past, there's no contest. It's wrong, it's unacceptable, it's a despicable thing we do when we steal these creatures from their oceans and trap them in tiny prisons. But the review is not for the subject matter but for the manner in which it is presented to us.
Blackfish isn't perfect. It doesn't have quite the same profound, lasting impact as The Cove. Perhaps that is, in part, down to the lack of shocking imagery. The footage of orcas bleeding copiously into their pools, having been attacked by other killer whales, is sickening but because it is on a smaller scale than the mass slaughter of dolphins that dyed the cove scarlet there is a risk the impact will be reduced. It shouldn't be, it mustn't be, but We shouldn't need to see it to believe it, but we've become a far more visually inspired breed in recent years.
More than that, Blackfish doesn't give a lot of time to the other side of the story. I'm intrigued to know quite how SeaWorld could possibly defend its actions but, as they declined to be interviewed, this is a very one-sided documentary. I can't help thinking this imperative cause would be even more compelling if we could hear the excuses.
Another unexplained mystery is how Cowperthwaite obtained the footage she has of SeaWorld. Presumably they didn't give it to her willingly. But these are minor quibbles with a documentary that is as sickening as it is compelling. Interviews with apologetic, horrified former SeaWorld trainers and tear-streaked 'kidnappers' impart the information we need to educate, inform, convince or perhaps even convert us.
First, Cowperthwaite teaches us about the orcas: Their brains are superior to ours in certain aspects; their emotional attachment far exceeds ours, with offspring remaining with their mother long into adulthood; each family group (or pod) has it's own culture and 'language' for communication.
She then counters that with the lies perpetuated by the SeaWorld staff that we choose to believe: Orcas live longer, up to 35 years, in captivity due to the care available actually, in the wild, it's up to 50 for males and can be closer to a hundred for the females.
Male dorsal fin collapse is normal absolutely, it's 100% in captivity. However, in their natural environment it occurs approximately 1% of the time.
Killer whales enjoy performing the tricks in tiny pools for us um
As more and more evidence of orca psychosis brought on by cruelty and captivity unfolds, Blackfish becomes increasingly difficult to watch. The sight of peeling paint in a tiny, floating warehouse into which the orcas are herded every night is saddening. Hearing that they are punished for not performing perfectly is horrifying. Watching them bleed, observing them rock in grief or cry out to their stolen offspring is heartbreaking.
The message throughout Blackfish is that faceless managers steal killer whales (along with dolphins and countless other creatures) from their natural habitats, subject them to abuse and solitary confinement in woefully cramped enclosures so that we can pay to watch them perform unnatural tricks for our cameras, and so the owners can watch their bank accounts swell. The message is, it isn't about entertainment or protection of a species, it's about money.
But what stamps the reality more indelibly than anything that comes before it, is the comment from one of the former trainers in the final scene. As they sail through the ocean, watching a pod of killer whales free and at peace in their natural environment, he comments, "We saw orcas swimming in straight lines with straight dorsal fins... it was an honour."
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First, that's a great documentary: it beautifully combines Herzog's
"Grizzly Man" thrilling, escalating tension of how things go wrong when
humans misinterpret their relation with nature with Achbar & Abbott's
"The Corporation" sharp examination of modern-day companies.
Second, it is aesthetically captivating and pleasant to follow. Cowperthwaite's reconstructs the narrative leading to the final, and fatal, encounter of Tilikum and Dawn Brancheau, alternating footage, both in the wild and in aquariums, with interviews and contextual data.
Finally, it is a work that, without ever abandoning neutrality, serves a mostly noble cause: that against the confinement of animals that are intelligent, social, and set to crisscross oceans, not to be kept in tanks.
My hope is that, by being such a fine piece of art, it also helps change the industry of marine-life entertainment theme parks.
So "Blackfish" is a big splash in more than one way! Go watch it.
This year is already shaping up to be a great one for documentaries and
Blackfish is quickly earning the reputation of being the most
essential. And it absolutely deserves it. Although its an emotionally
charged argument, there's a rational logic behind it. Every time
there's found footage of killer whale incidents it's utterly
gut-wrenching and you can't help but dread the moments that inevitably
shook the world when they could've been prevented. Fortunately, the
filmmakers find a different way to present the footage each time and it
keeps it from feeling repetitive and builds to feeling more heart
breaking at every turn. In its use of talking head interviews with
former trainers, it ends up genuinely dramatic without feeling
melodramatic as many documentaries can. It oozes with passion for the
creatures which helps enforce its argument against their treatment, not
just for better protection for trainers, but for corporations like
SeaWorld to not turn a blind eye at the clear injustice they've cased.
What's the moral cost of the business and entertainment? I certainly
won't ever be able to be entertained by animal acts without thinking
about Blackfish. Thisis an extremely powerful documentary that's
brilliantly structured, tragic and cinematic. More than worth your
I am so happy the cruelty behind captive whales is being exposed. I was so excited to see this promo on IMDb. Seeing the 20 seconds of the whales being taken from the ocean and then where they kept them after made me want to cry. I doubt I'll be able to watch the movie without crying. What Sea World and other theme parks like them are doing is wrong and cruel and I'm so glad more people are going to see this. Every parent who takes their kid to Sea World should be required to watch this first. I went to Sea World twice for school functions in high school and I didn't think anything of it. When I look back on it, I am mad that I was put in the position to have to go. I hope this film also changes schools views on field trips (or band trips or drill team trips) to Sea World. I have been fighting and protesting Sea World (and the circus)for years now. The more people who know about what really happens the better for these poor animals. THANK YOU to the person who made this documentary.
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