Plenty more fish in the sea…
I’m ashamed to say that I visited SeaWorld, back in 2009. I saw the dolphins and belugas. I saw the penguins and sea lions. I saw the orcas. Through the few shows that I did get to see I felt an awful unsettling feeling. Something wasn’t quite right. The animals were very beautiful, and their tricks were inventive and clever. But something was off. I could feel it in my stomach.
Blackfish takes that feeling of dread and turns it up to eleven. This documentary takes you behind the curtain of those happy circus tricks. It’s everything SeaWorld doesn’t want you to see. And it’s horrifying. Centered almost entirely on Tillakum, the Godfather and patriarch of SeaWorld’s orca collection, the filmmakers have created a patchwork of woe stitched together with talking head interviews from previous orca trainers and nature specialists — all of whom are waving their pitchforks and flaming torches, united with their message to free these captive animals.
As the film progresses, things do begin to feel somewhat one sided. This is mostly due to the fact SeaWorld refused multiple offers from the filmmakers to be interviewed. Instead, aided by flashy animations and bone tingling music, the corporation are painted, for better or worse, as mustachioed, pantomime villains; cackling wrongdoers who care not for their majestic captives, only for the dollars they bring them by the bucket.
Nonetheless, Blackfish is an excellent documentary. It may sometimes resort to emotional manipulation but its message, and agenda, are important. Be under no illusion: this is not Free Willy, and nothing you may have seen from David Attenborough. This is horror in its most harrowing, blood curdling form.
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