A very moving documentary that is spectacularly told and edited, making an Oscar nomination very likely and a future trip to SeaWorld unimaginable.
Somewhat similar to the documentary The Cove, Blackfish makes persuasive arguments against catching and holding animals in captivity, though this documentary is focused on the directing blame solely on one company, SeaWorld. Blackfish catches SeaWorld in several lies through court documents and eye-witnesses to prove that the SeaWorld PR department rank up there amongst the best public deceivers in the business.
The majority of the documentary is told from the testimonies of former SeaWorld trainers—each who recall the magical feeling of being hired and being able to work with the orca whales on a daily basis. Many of them have personal videos of them eager as can be on their first day at work. But Blackfish does a great job at playing with the emotions of its audience. After a brief stint of highlighting how exciting and rewarding it is to work with these animals (especially at first), the story that unfolds is one that is much more dark and depressing.
While there have been no human deaths on record from killer whale attacks in the wild, in captivity there are several instances of deaths that SeaWorld does not want you to know about. Blackfish centers around one whale in particular, Tilikum, who is the largest orca whale in captivity. But Tilikum has another interesting fact about him and that is that he has a history of killing people.
Blackfish brings attention to several alarming facts about how SeaWorld treats their whales; such as how tiny their sleeping quarters are and how they separate infant whales from their mothers. These cruel environments are the reasons why the death rate for orcas is 2.5 times higher in captivity than it is in the wild. It is also very likely the reason why the whales act out with violent behavior.
But the second part to the documentary is set on exposing how SeaWorld covers up these stories and puts the blame on the victims instead of the animals. The reason for doing so is pretty simple; Tilikum is a male orca who is worth millions for of his reproducing purposes alone. Then add on the fact if SeaWorld accepted full blame for the deaths that they would likely be sued for millions. Suddenly it becomes evident why the company wants to sweep everything under the rug from the public.
One thing that is particularly interesting is that the former trainers believe Tilikum is not exactly insane but rather just acting out of aggression likely caused by psychological effects of being in captivity. However, a graphic is shown that indicates that the majority of the whales SeaWorld have bred used Tilikum’s sperm. This suggests the potential danger of his offspring which nearly challenges statements made about how Tilikum is not an inherit threat to people (other than his surroundings). This could spark a whole other debate on how much genetics comes into play on how you were raised. Bottom line though, the documentary points out that Tilikum has a history of killing people and history tends to repeat itself.
There will not likely be another documentary this year that is more impactful or emotionally stirring than Blackfish. Though the documentary is pretty much a one-sided argument, it is of no fault of their own as SeaWorld repeatedly declined interviews. Interestingly enough, SeaWorld did issue a response to the film since its theatrical release, which can be found on their official site along with the film’s comments to those responses. This is a very moving documentary that is spectacularly told and edited, making an Oscar nomination very likely and a future trip to SeaWorld unimaginable.