Rating: Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s effort is more than a film, it is a public service. It will have you crying with righteous indignation.
It is not a question of whether the powerful documentary Blackfish will be nominated for an Oscar this coming year, but rather if it will win. It exposes in dramatic, touching fashion the exploitation of Orca whales by the moguls running our billion dollar national entertainment industry, and it simply cannot be missed.
On the one hand, who doesn’t love Sea World in Orlando where attractive trainers perform acrobatic stunts with these beautiful creatures? Doesn’t this exciting experience justify the monstrous price that your family must pay to sit in the stands?
Yet has anyone ever considered how these intelligent ocean creatures survive by being confined for life in a small aquatic facility? Equally important, does it matter to you that the entertainment industry has largely suppressed information concerning how several of these trainers have been killed by these whales, the most recent being Ms. Dawn Brancheau in 2010 in Orlando?
Told with the cooperation of multiple ex-trainers, Blackfish exposes this ongoing monstrous tragedy. Originally called Blackfish by Native Americans, the viewer soon learns that Orcas spend their entire lives at sea in a family community. Their lifespan generally reflects that of humans, and offspring stay in the company of their mothers for their entire lives. Additionally, their intelligence and communication skills are still being analyzed, and their attachment to each other is inspiring.
The entire story of what we do to these endearing mammals in order to make a fast buck is disgusting. Though it has now been banned in the waters off of the United States, there are still whales in Sea World-type facilities that were captured as young calves at sea. One of the aging participants literally cried while describing how Orca mothers refused to flee to safety when their offspring were captured in nets. I am certain that you will react the same way.
While there isn’t time to tell the whole pathetic story, these creatures become visibly violent to each other in captivity when separated from their natural families. For reasons that are all too apparent, the largest fin of all the males droops noticeably in captivity, something that you seldom see in the oceans. You don’t have to guess why.
The bottom line is that these whales are kept penned up in facilities so that young kids can look on with awe and buy stuffed replicas as they leave. The effect is exactly the same as if we kept children locked in a 10-foot square cell enclosed with glass at a mall so that people could pay to see how cute they are, not to mention how they like to play with their “trainers”.
However, it was the death of Ms. Brancheau that brought temporary focus on to this monstrosity. She was a recognized expert, loved by families and co-workers alike. There is actual film footage of the moment when Tilikum dragged her into the water by her arm, proceeding to then viciously demolish her.
This was the third human Tilikum has killed in over 20 years of captivity, much of it in isolation, and you are left weeping for him as much as his victims. Given Sea World’s attempt to cover up this death, see if you will ever buy a ticket to their charade again.
The movie ends with the inspired ex-trainers on a boat near the San Juan Islands off the coast of the State of Washington, watching Orcas swim majestically as a family at sea. Ironically, my wife and I just spent a week in those islands, and we witnessed the same thing on a small raft with 10 other people. You watch in awe, and the thought of these intelligent creatures being kept in captivity becomes all the more heartbreaking.
As one of the ex-trainers said, 50 years from now this abhorrent process will have been long ended, and those citizens will be wondering how their ancestors could have allowed it to happen at all. Every dime that you contribute to Sea World allows them to maintain this insidious pogrom, and it is time to return these creatures to the sea.