- 1 hr 24 min
Blackfish is a documentary movie from 2013 that takes viewers on an emotional and compelling journey into the world of captive killer whales. The story follows Tilikum, a captive orca whale, for over 30 years as he is taken from the wild, shuffled between amusement parks and tourist attractions, and ultimately involved in several tragic and deadly incidents. The movie features interviews from former Seaworld trainers, scientists, and marine park officials, who provide insight into the lives of these magnificent creatures and their treatment in captivity. Through their stories, viewers are given a first-hand account of the physical and psychological toll that captivity takes on killer whales. The documentary is structured as a series of chronologically-arranged episodes, each one highlighting a different aspect of Tilikum's life in captivity. Beginning with his capture in the 1980s off the coast of Iceland, we follow Tilikum through his time spent at Sealand of the Pacific, then Seaworld Orlando, before ultimately being transferred to Seaworld San Diego, where he has been held since 1991. Throughout the movie, viewers are shown how orca whales such as Tilikum are trained to perform tricks and stunts for entertainment, encouraged by the prospect of small portions of food. This is paired with visually striking footage of the killer whales interacting with their trainers, standing in large tanks, and swimming in seemingly endless circles. But the documentary also highlights the darker side of the industry, with accounts of trainers being killed or seriously injured after being dragged underwater by the whales. The tragic death of Seaworld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010 is also covered in the film. Footage of the incident itself is not shown, but the events leading up to it and the aftermath are discussed in detail. The documentary reveals how the lapse in safety protocols and the company's initial response, which blamed Brancheau for the incident, were a failure to recognize the true nature of the beasts. The stories shared in Blackfish generate an emotional response from viewers, as we see Tilikum suffer the consequences of prolonged captivity. The documentary's central message is the cruelty and inhumanity of keeping these highly intelligent creatures in confinement for the sake of entertainment. Overall, Blackfish is a thought-provoking and emotionally charged piece of work that sheds light on the often-hidden world of animal captivity. It asks viewers to consider the ethical implications of keeping killer whales in tanks for the amusement of humans, and to look beyond their performative qualities to understand the physical and mental toll it takes on these creatures. Those who watch Blackfish will undoubtedly find themselves questioning the morality of the multi-billion dollar theme-park industry.