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.Written by
Ahead of release, SeaWorld mounted an aggressive preemptive public relations campaign attacking the veracity of Gabriela Cowperthwaite's claims in a critique sent to fifty potential film reviewers - a move .. that garnered wide attention to what would otherwise have likely been a little seen documentary. The film's release company (Magnolia Entertainment) President stated SeaWorld's response as: 'Frankly, never seen anything like it' but was 'the gift that keeps on giving.' (In New York Times, July '13: quoted in 'Political Risk' by Amy Zegart with Condoleezza Rice, no less: '17.) See more »
Himself - OSHA Expert Witness, Whale Researcher:
The First Nations people and the old fisherman on the coast, they call them "blackfish". They're an animal that possesses great spiritual power and they're not to be meddled with. I've spent a lot of time around killer whales and they're always in charge. I never get out of the boat and I never mess with them. The speed and power is quite amazing. Rule are the same as the pool hall - keep one foot on the floor at all times.
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Like many I guess, I've seen and considered myself entertained by the sea creatures at Sea World. I was aware of the death of one of the trainers at one of these shows from some years ago but put it down to being an occupational hazard, a tragic but accidental death. This well-made, provocative documentary takes that sad story as its starting point and digs deeper, painting up a tawdry tale of greed, deception and apparent wilful abandonment of care by the named entertainment company, which significantly declined to comment on any of the major accusations lodged here.
From the horrible death of the female trainer in 2010, caught on video, but mercifully cut before she is actually killed, the production traces back the story of the only too well named killer whale and its history of previous attacks on other trainers, caused, allegedly by years of mistreatment of the animal. Sea World's part in a similar European tragedy involving the death of a Spanish trainer only adds to the charge sheet.
A host of former trainers now recanting their previously parroted company-speak of how well the animals are treated is a particularly effective device, but there's much good detective work besides. Most of all, the film isn't afraid to point the finger at the multimillion dollar corporation Sea World and while I hesitate to come to a judgement without the accused exercising the right of reply, it's hard not to conclude that this was an accident, if that's the correct word, waiting to happen.
The film is happy to confine its aim to Sea World alone, but I'm sure I'm not alone in reconsidering my position on the capture and training of animals for our entertainment not only in water parks, but also of course in circuses and zoos.
A sad, sobering, look into an unacceptable mode of entertainment which has surely had its day.
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