Documentary Review – Blackfish (2013)

Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Courtesy of Magnolia Home Entertainment
Release Date: November 12, 2013


When I first saw the trailer for BLACKFISH, I was stunned. The film looked mesmerizing, an in-depth look into something very few people had probably ever thought about. I vaguely remember back in 2010, when SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed, but I recall the news reports all saying it was ‘trainer error’. BLACKFISH unveils the truth about what really happened and then throws the curtains aside to expose the psychological damage that is done to killer whales in captivity.

If you are not familiar with BLACKFISH, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Magnolia Home Entertainment:

Killer whales are beloved majestic, friendly giants yet infamous for their capacity to kill viciously. BLACKFISH unravels the complexities of this dichotomy, employing the story of the notorious performing whale Tilikum, who – unlike any orca in the wild – has taken the lives of several people while in captivity. BLACKFISH expands on the discussion of keeping such intelligent creatures in captivity.

I have to confess that I’m not a tree-hugger or animal rights activist, although I do believe we should take care of the earth and treat animals appropriately. But when I finished watching BLACKFISH, I sat for a while and thought about what I should tell my kids about SeaWorld. They are wanting to go, but now I’m not so sure I want to take them.

This compelling self-argument is the very reason every person reading this review should pick up a copy of BLACKFISH and watch it. The film is not a preachy PETA promotional video or anything of the sort; it is a vivid and candid look at orcas, the treatment they receive in captivity (from both people and other killer whales), and the mental damage that is done to them by plucking them from the wild.

The film is shot well and presents the information in a no-nonsense yet nonjudgmental fashion. Several former SeaWorld trainers are interviewed and give their testimonies, along with an OSHA investigator that worked on the SeaWorld court case and many other people involved with the industry. The result is a moving and powerful piece that will make you think.

BLACKFISH is an amazing film and I highly recommend giving it a look. Regardless of whether you like orcas or not, you can’t help but gain respect for them after watching this documentary. The film is available now in a variety of formats.


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