Cinema Review: Blackfish

DIR: Gabriela Cowperthwaite • WRI: Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Eli B. Despres •  PRO: Manuel Oteyza • DOP: Ross Emery • ED: Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Eli B. Despres • Cast: Samantha Berg, Dave Duffus, Dean Gomersall, Tilikum

Blackfish is truly captivating in every sense of the word.

The story centres around the life of the 31 year-old, 6-ton killer whale Tilikum, who has been directly responsible for the death of 3 people, including Dawn Brancheau, the former senior trainer at SeaWorld in Orlando. Most of us can remember the explosive news item when it first hit the press back in 2010 and the uproar from activists around the world that followed.  Now, Blackfish explores the reasoning behind the likely “psychosis” Tilikum has experienced in captivity and exposes how the executives at SeaWorld have tried to cover-up the truth and lay the blame at their “beloved” trainers.

The documentary stems back to when the Orcas were first captured for human entertainment and the heartache these magnificent creatures face when a member of their family is captured and stolen before their very eyes. Some Orcas were so badly traumatised as to suffer a massive heart attack during the event; later to be disposed of by their attackers – by being gutted and filled with stones to anchor their lifeless bodies to the seabed to prevent raising suspicion from authorities. Shockingly SeaWorld themselves carried out these horrific abductions under a different name. The real-life footage of these Orcas crying in distress and the harrowing interviews with former SeaWorld trainers is almost too much to bear.

Since the 1970s, killer whales have attacked just two dozen people worldwide. But critics claim the animals can become aggressive when kept captive due to higher levels of stress and the unnatural living conditions. In November 2006, a 3-ton killer whale dragged its handler, Ken Peters, underwater more than once at the SeaWorld theme park in Florida during a routine trick. It seems all living creatures have their limitations.

Blackfish, along with the 2009 Oscar-nominated film The Cove, have no doubt changed how a vast amount of people view captivity and theme parks. Hopefully, it will do the same for many more across the world. The only way to stop captivity and make a real change, one that SeaWorld will notice, is to make a dent in their pocket by not attending their parks and shows.

Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite has done an incredible job shining a light on this sordid industry. The footage is gripping throughout the entire film. This movie will have an everlasting influence on those that watch it. How many movies can you say that about? Go on and take the plunge; you’ll hardly be able to come up for air.

Lynn Larkin

90 mins
Blackfish is released on 25th July 2013

Blackfish – Official Website


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