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5.0 out of 5 stars "Courageous, heartrending and remarkable...", 8 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Blackfish [DVD] (DVD)
American screenwriter, producer and documentary director Gabriela Cowperthwaite`s second documentary feature which she co-wrote with screenwriter, film editor and director Eli Despres and co-produced, was instigated after she learned that a renowned SeaWorld trainer named Dawn Brancheau was killed in the summer of 2010 in Orlando, Florida in USA by an orca. It premiered in the U.S. Documentary Competition section at the 32nd Sundance Film Festival in 2013, was shot on location in USA and Spain and is an American production which was produced by producer Manny V. Oteyza. It tells the story about a 32-year-old male bull orca named Tilikum who was captured in Iceland in the early 1980s, who grew up at a theme park called Sealand of the Pacific in Canada where he was used as a performance animal and who lives in captivity with other killer whales at a mammal park in Orlando, Florida in USA called SeaWorld where he trains with animal trainers, is used for breeding and performs for live audiences.

Finely and engagingly directed by North American filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite, this quietly paced documentary which is narrated from multiple viewpoints and from a killer whale`s viewpoint, draws an involving and multifaceted portrayal of an amusement park and it`s main attractions and the relations between humans and animals. While notable for it`s fine cinematography by cinematographers Jonathan Ingalls and Christopher Towey, this narrative-driven story where, amongst others, former SeaWorld trainers, whale researchers, a diver who captured orcas in the 1970s, a neuroscientist, Orca researchers, a former director and trainers at Sealand of the Pacific and eyewitnesses talks about their experiences with killer whales, examines the living conditions, minds, languages and abilities of these highly social, emotional and intelligent mammals, the most likely reasons as to why they at any given moment could and would kill human beings, the distinctions between animal rights and human rights and behind all the spectacle regarding this 5,400 kilo heavy and almost seven meter long member of the Dolphin family, how and why it is so in this world that the life of a 40-year-old American woman who truly loved the animals she eventually was mutilated by was turned into a fabricated lie to protect the reputation of SeaWorld and its main attraction, and contains a great instrumental score by composer Jeff Beal.

This educational, socio-political and non-activist documentary where questions are raised regarding occupational risks, the use of potential killers for financial gain and as objects of entertainment, the treatment of animals in captivation, a management withholding information from their employees regarding the history of the orcas they were to work with, to what extent an animal of this kind can be trusted, why the preservation of a large company was of greater importance than acquiring justice for those men and women working for them who lost their lives and if marine parks serves a significant purpose in society, is impelled and reinforced by its fragmented narrative structure, majestic scenes of the orcas in their own environment and the unsettling though essential video camera footage which proves how experienced these brave animal trainers are and how defenceless they are when attacked by an orca. A courageous, heartrending and remarkable documentary feature.
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