Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Blackfish (2013) - ★★★★★

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Writers: Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Eli B. Despres

Blackfish is one of the most engrossing, well made documentaries I've ever seen. Its style, consistency, and powerful message is what separates it from other great documentaries. There's sentimentality, but only enough to make one really passionate about the subject. There's hard-hitting facts and opinions from respected killer-whale specialists, making it both educational and thoroughly interesting. There's awe-inspiring testimonies from actual Sea-World employees, who have all had plenty of experience handling killer-whales, and dealing with the corruption of the company. There are jaw-dropping stories that made my blood boil with anger, but also extremely saddened. If I had to pick one film to use as an example of "what makes a good documentary," I'd pick Blackfish without even batting an eye. It is also my choice for Best Documentary, 2013.

This is a film that aims to stop live-sea animal amusement parks, particularly Sea-World, from capturing and using killer-whales to entertain the masses. From showing their methods of capturing the poor animals, to highlighting just how many deaths and injuries have occurred to killer-whale trainers, Blackfish's message is a tour-de-force.

I love the amount of information that is available in Blackfish, which is what a documentary should be all about. We learn that killer-whales are highly intelligent beings, whose maternal instincts may even surpass that of human beings. Much like the documentary, 'Grizzly Man' (2005), we see just how dangerous they are to people, even in the face of trainers who believe they've developed emotional relationships with the killer-whales. We also get to see the lies and publicity cover-ups of companies such as Sea-World.

One of the most humbling parts of the film for me was the scenes of the free killer-whales, swimming together in a pod like nature intended. The reason it hit me so hard was because of a story told before the scene... the story of how they capture the whales. Although not as gruesome or shocking as the murderous scenes from 'The Cove' (2009), it is every bit as sickening and heart-breaking to see. There's a real beauty to the cinematography of the film, and the order of the information and stories. Some parts of the film totally correspond with others, making the emotional impact extremely effect. I can hardly believe that anyone who sees this film would ever go to one of these "amusement" parks again.

Dawn Brancheau, veteran killer-whale trainer.
I'd say that the most riveting section of Blackfish is when it focuses on the deaths and injuries of many killer-whale trainers. It starts with a story of a small park from the 1980s, where a killer-whale dragged the trainer underwater and subsequently killed her. Then it gets even more devastating as several stories arise about the fatalities from foreign Sea-World parks and parks on US soil. The most shocking one of all was the death of Dawn Brancheau, who many considered one of the best killer-whale trainers of all. The infamous whale, Tilikum, flat-out grabbed onto her arm with its mouth, and never let go. The reason we hear all of these stories is because the next section of Blackfish focuses on the cover-ups and lies of the Sea-World corporation. Their publicists claimed that it was not the whale's fault, but Dawn's mistake for being killed. They also denied affiliation with terribly run foreign parks, which turned out to be flat-out lies.

So after hearing all of this devastating information, Blackfish should turn just about any decent human being off ever going to a 'sea-animal amusement park.' What's more, it left me feeling very connected to killer-whales, and extremely sorry for their circumstances of those that are in captivity. If you liked The Cove, then you should love Blackfish, which is essentially a similar documentary with less waffle and more hard-hitting information.

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