Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Starring: Tilikum, Dave Duffus, Samantha Berg
Blackfish strips away the illusion of entertainment at SeaWorld to reveal the cruelty that exists underneath. Centred around the orca Tilikum and the controversy regarding captive killer whales, Blackfish shows how no wild orca has ever killed a human and yet several have died as a direct result of captive orcas. Complete with never-before-seen footage and interviews, the cruel treatment of this species in captivity over the past four decades is given a shocking insight. Over time the workers took of their blinders and realised that they had been misled and that these creatures weren’t as gentle as they had been told. Now the public can also see.
Blackfish makes the audience consider just how little they know about orcas. Orcas live a lot longer in the wild and are less likely to have a collapsed fin – something most killer whales at SeaWorld have. Working from the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s Oscar-nominated documentary chronicles the life of Tilikum. Abducted in 1983 from his mother, Tilikum was transported to a resort in Canada. In 1991 he killed his trainer and 11 months later he was purchased by SeaWorld and relocated to their Florida base. In the Summer of 1999 Tilikum was found one morning with a trespasser’s lifeless body strung over his back, parading it proudly for all to see. Eleven years passed until Tilikum struck again and the SeaWorld conspiracy was born. Though spokespeople for SeaWorld suggest that Dawn’s ponytail was mistaken for a fish by Tilikum, Cowperthwaite has unearthed witnesses who recall a different version of events, witnesses that claim that the orca was acting unusual on the day. She also shows previously unseen footage of other orca attacks on their trainers which makes the attack on SeaWorld and the case that has been built all the more irrefutable.
The ‘Blackfish Effect’ is still rolling strong over a year later. Countless celebrities tweet their contempt of Blackfish, high school students are making videos to raise awareness, Barenaked Ladies and Willie Nelson have cancelled gigs, and Southwest Airlines have ended their partnership with SeaWorld. Change.org currently has over two-dozen Blackfish-related petitions on the site.
Blackfish is a crazy Oscar-snub. The amount of people that have been affected by this documentary is phenomenal as is the film. The interviews and visuals provided with the horror that is being told is emotional viewing for anyone. This is a film that has changed the industry forever.