Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Blackfish

The killer whale, one of nature’s most glorious creations for its sheer size, intelligence and emotional depth, is front and center here, along with the horror of its captivity.

July 18, 2013

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1381398-Blackfish_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Animals in captivity have seemed to be a necessary evil since the beginning of civilization, but, especially after seeing Blackfish, one may well question the very existence of menageries of any type. Gabriela Cowperthwaite‘s highly important documentary trains an unwavering eye upon killer whales and the havoc created by their exploitation as marine-park attractions.

Native American fisherman bestowed the name “blackfish” on them, with wondering awe at their power and deep, intelligent sensitivity, but although they may sell tourist tickets, today they command less respect. Heartbreakingly captured and taken from their mothers at an early age, to the accompaniment of said parents’ wrenchingly real screams of anguish, the psychological trauma runs deep from the very beginning. One fisherman tearfully recalls his involvement as “one of the worst things I’ve ever done.” Physical damage follows as well, especially in the case of the film’s “star,” Tilikum, for years the big Shamu attraction at Orlando’s Sea World, who was snatched at age two and then became prey to jealous female orcas who would repeatedly bite or “rake” him, while all were deprived of food if they did not perform well enough.

Such abuse had bitter results when it became apparent that the 12,000-pound Tilikum was responsible for numerous attacks upon humans, including the deaths of a couple of trainers. Other living, former trainers adamantly state that vital information regarding these tragic events was deliberately kept from them by Sea World officials, with blame being put on the trainers rather than the traumatized beast, in the interests of customer PR and the employment of future trainers who, to a man, were all bright-eyed and eager in their ignorance to work with such “wondrous” animals (and surprised by how little real marine experience was required of them initially).

Cowperthwaite laces the film with those ultra-corny, family-targeted promotional commercials for Sea World (one of them featuring the resonant tones of James Earl Jones), as well as truly harrowing shots of screaming trainers being helplessly dragged in the water and, in one instance, actually crushed between two whales. Pro-Sea World advocates are interviewed, but their words seem hollow and evasive in light of the hard evidence the film uncovers and, indeed, you come away thinking that a boycott of all such establishments—however many smiles they bring to the kiddies—is well in order.


Film Review: Blackfish

The killer whale, one of nature’s most glorious creations for its sheer size, intelligence and emotional depth, is front and center here, along with the horror of its captivity.

July 18, 2013

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1381398-Blackfish_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Animals in captivity have seemed to be a necessary evil since the beginning of civilization, but, especially after seeing Blackfish, one may well question the very existence of menageries of any type. Gabriela Cowperthwaite‘s highly important documentary trains an unwavering eye upon killer whales and the havoc created by their exploitation as marine-park attractions.

Native American fisherman bestowed the name “blackfish” on them, with wondering awe at their power and deep, intelligent sensitivity, but although they may sell tourist tickets, today they command less respect. Heartbreakingly captured and taken from their mothers at an early age, to the accompaniment of said parents’ wrenchingly real screams of anguish, the psychological trauma runs deep from the very beginning. One fisherman tearfully recalls his involvement as “one of the worst things I’ve ever done.” Physical damage follows as well, especially in the case of the film’s “star,” Tilikum, for years the big Shamu attraction at Orlando’s Sea World, who was snatched at age two and then became prey to jealous female orcas who would repeatedly bite or “rake” him, while all were deprived of food if they did not perform well enough.

Such abuse had bitter results when it became apparent that the 12,000-pound Tilikum was responsible for numerous attacks upon humans, including the deaths of a couple of trainers. Other living, former trainers adamantly state that vital information regarding these tragic events was deliberately kept from them by Sea World officials, with blame being put on the trainers rather than the traumatized beast, in the interests of customer PR and the employment of future trainers who, to a man, were all bright-eyed and eager in their ignorance to work with such “wondrous” animals (and surprised by how little real marine experience was required of them initially).

Cowperthwaite laces the film with those ultra-corny, family-targeted promotional commercials for Sea World (one of them featuring the resonant tones of James Earl Jones), as well as truly harrowing shots of screaming trainers being helplessly dragged in the water and, in one instance, actually crushed between two whales. Pro-Sea World advocates are interviewed, but their words seem hollow and evasive in light of the hard evidence the film uncovers and, indeed, you come away thinking that a boycott of all such establishments—however many smiles they bring to the kiddies—is well in order.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Happy Christmas
Film Review: Happy Christmas

Joe Swanberg's latest feature is a collection of strong individual scenes and performances that never quite finds its statement of purpose. More »

Very Good Girls
Film Review: Very Good Girls

More of a meandering, misguided path than a road to hell, Naomi Foner’s directing debut, starring Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen as 18-year-old BFFs, is similarly filled with good intentions. More »

The Kill Team
Film Review: The Kill Team

Marine Adam Winfield goes on trial in a case in which U.S. soldiers murdered innocent Afghanis. Strong subject marred by poor narrative choices. More »

The Divine Move
Film Review: The Divine Move

Excessive violence and off-the-wall plotting undermine an intriguing game-based premise. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Hercules
Film Review: Hercules

Legendary strongman is caught in the middle of a brutal civil war in a fast-paced vehicle for Dwayne Johnson. More »

Lucy
Film Review: Lucy

Drugs unleash the full potential of the brain with tragic results in Luc Besson's sci-fi adventure. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here