on 12 September 2013
I got the DVD, I've been buying from amazon for 13 years, this is my first review ...
Living in France, I just can say I've always been attracted to dolphins and whales since I can't even remember when. Maybe Free willy movies were part of it. The first thing I wanted to do when I went to California 10 years ago was to see an orca for real ... For real, meant the easy way at that time ... at sea world ... I was happy to see these beautiful creatures but already felt there was something wrong seeing them at that time. For years now, I know I will never go back and don't like the idea of them being trapped. When I heard about your movie, I couldn't wait to see it. I saw ""The Cove"" which was awful. I am a SeaShepherd supporter.
I have watched this documentary and invite everybody to watch it, I'm gonna give it to my friends to watch...
I feel sick, I am breathtaken. I have no words to describe that feeling I'm experiencing right now. Thank you for saying at loud and showing to everybody that it has to stop. I don't know what will happen, what will be done, what will work.
I just wanna say RIP to these trainers.
I'd like that Tilikum Orca to be rehabilited to wild oceans.
I'd like people to understand that we can't be selfish and monsters.
An Orca in a glass can't work.
I thank you Blackfish team and will do my best to spread the word, just like you do.
I thank you for giving me more details and arguments to criticize that shame.
on 2 June 2013
Blackfish throws up some interesting points of view in its taut 80 minutes. Exposing the ill-treatment of Killer Whales in the marine entertainment industry, it focuses the full force of its ire at the renowned SeaWorld, whilst not allowing those of its ilk to completely escape unscathed either. Using the case book of accidents, incidents and killings that have occurred on the trainers over the years, the film dives into the history of the practice. Choosing to canvass opinion and eye-witness accounts, the lid is well and truly lifted on the captive treatment of the species of orca commonly known as Blackfish.
This is whistle-blowing cinema that peeks behind the veiled curtain to deliver a suspected but up to now unseen `truth'. It spews with a barely contained rage and the fact that there is no counter view provided by SeaWorld (they apparently declined to comment), makes this an inherently lop-sided film. It is effectively a pro-animal rights soliloquy. However, quite how SeaWorld could have constructed an argument to deflect the evidence against them would have perhaps left a task more gargantuan than the exceptionally large whale, Tilikum, who lies at the centre of this film. Tilikum is the beating heart and glue of this sprawling piece, who is famous for his size and infamous for his capacity to `lunge' at his trainers.
We hear tale after tale of inconsistent and volatile behaviour from him. We also hear heart-rending stories of how he is bullied by the smaller and more agile females, along with hours of isolation and a complete and utter lack of stimulation that makes up the bulk of his confined life. We are told that despite his alarming track record, the reason that he remains a mainstay of the circuit is because of one cold and simple fact; his sperm is worth a lot of money.
Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite could be accused of occasionally cutting her cloth with too much ghoulish emphasis on the archive footage of mishaps and attacks, but this is a necessary reveal to stir indignation, horror and outrage.
What you are left with is a compassionate poem that gasps in awe at the evident grief and frustration of these creatures. Although the lure to cynically meter the term anthropomorphising and a Disney-fication of the facts is tempting, the sheer evidence shows a mammal that is unusually social, emotional and self-aware. As one of the neuroscientists starkly put it after tests were done on a Killer Whale brain, not only is their brain extremely developed and advanced, but they simply have an extra part of the brain that we humans don't even have.
They say there is no such thing as bad publicity. Well, this documentary expunges any such notion, with a dismissive wave and a stern look. This is an anti-advert, if you will. That's my view, but you should really see it for yourself. It is also another example of the distributor, Dogwoof, promoting noble documentaries of unremitting power.
If you are not convinced by this review but were moved by the Cove, Project Nim or Grizzly Man, then this really is for you.
on 5 August 2013
In one of the most powerful and thought-provoking documentaries in a generation, Blackfish turns the spotlight on humankind's selfish desire to confine large, charismatic marine mammals in a captive situation for our viewing pleasure. Gabriela Cowperthwaite's important film could have so easily been labelled `just another activist film' but this is different - our narrators here, for the most part, are `industry' i.e. ex-marine mammal trainers who have decided to speak out on the culture, the management style and the monstrous PR machine that exists at one of America's most identifiable brands - SeaWorld.
The trainers don't have an axe to grind as many left the industry years ago and have gone on to establish successful careers in other disciplines. Neither were they rewarded financially for their contribution to the film. Blackfish draws aside the thin façade that hides the dark underbelly of the captivity industry and arms the filmgoer with the facts allowing them to finally dispel the myth behind the Shamu label.
In a searingly honest and candid account of their time at SeaWorld, the trainers eloquently talk about their frustrations with the job and about how controlling senior management could be if they didn't toe the corporate line. The trainers openly and honestly acknowledge that they had doubts and questions about the whales' behaviour and the trainer's working practices but didn't dare raise them so as not to jeopardise their own positions.
Just as the orcas are deprived of food if they miss a cue or don't perform correctly during showtime, their trainers feared that they too may be `deprived' of working with the whales if they were to speak out on any welfare or safety concerns they may have had.
For many, this all changed on February 24th 2010 with the tragic death of experienced trainer, Dawn Brancheau, at SeaWorld Orlando. Dawn was grabbed, pulled into the water and drowned by a male orca called Tilikum whilst kneeling beside his pool. The autopsy report detailing her horrific injuries makes for harrowing reading. Orcas are by far the largest animals kept in captivity and Tilikum, weighing in at 12,000 pounds, is by far the world's largest captive orca.
But this wasn't the first time Tilikum was responsible for human death. In 1991, on the other side of the continent, trainer Keltie Byrne met a similar fate at Sealand of the Pacific in Victoria, Canada. In 1999, Daniel Dukes, a visitor to SeaWorld Orlando, hid out in the park after closing and was found mutilated and drowned in Tilikum's tank the following morning. Since Dawn's death SeaWorld has been banned from letting its trainers back in the water - a decision they are currently appealing.
In spite of the risks, Tilikum is hugely important to SeaWorld's breeding programme. This disturbed, bored, frustrated, aggressive and possibly psychotic whale's DNA can now be traced through the lineage of the majority of SeaWorld's captive born orcas. These are not desirable qualities to propagate in any responsible captive breeding programme especially one where such powerful animals work in close proximity with humans.
It is unlikely Tilikum was born with these problems. He is a son of Iceland. Captured from the wild at three years of age, he was brutally removed from his pod and consigned to a life in captivity. Blackfish recalls the tragic deaths of three people but there really are four victims to this sorry tale. From the moment Tilikum was removed from the ocean and placed on the back of a truck his life was effectively over.
As people stream out of the Shamu Stadium and plan their next thrill-seeking experience, they should spare a thought for Tilikum in his holding tank - alone, bored, listless and a one-dimensional caricature of his wild counterpart. He's still there after thirty years....... hour after hour, day after day, year after year. The phrase, dying to entertain you, has never rung more true and makes you realise that sometimes in life you just have to shake your head and walk away.
Make no mistake, Blackfish is an important film and deserves to be seen by as wide an audience as possible. Its ultimate triumph lies in exposing the fake, plastic sparkle of the SeaWorld experience.
Blackfish is a powerful and shameful documentary exposing the cruelty and unsuitability of containing killer whales at theme parks focusing on one Orca in particular, Tilikum, who has been involved in a number of animal trainer attacks and fatalities.
Tilikum was originally captured from the wild, removed from his family pod and and has been kept for 30 years or so in a series of glorified swimming pools and holding pens where he is used to perform 'tricks' for the amusement of paying customers and his sperm regularly taken to maintain the captive killer whale population in similar 'attractions' Male adult killer whales are in excess of 20 feet in length and 6 tons in weight and can an do travel up to 100 miles daily.
One of the interesting elements of the film was the psychological impact upon the trainers represented within the film. Most of the five or so had visited a seaworld type establishment when young and had thereafter harboured ambitions to work as a trainer with these animals. Eventually all bar one of those represented here, eventually grew disillusioned with their roles having witnessed the injuries the whales inflicted upon each other; the separation of mothers and calves, unstimulating environment for the whales and unpredictable behaviour of the animals in their charge. It is clear that the Seaworld organisation are very effective at protecting their cash cows in the form of slick marketing, misinformation and manipulation. Many of the trainers grew very attached and developed strong emotional bonds to various whales with one stating that the reason he stayed in post for so long despite his increasing unease was the fear of what would become of 'his' whale once he left.
Of course it is different to be an outsider looking in questionning why people would go to places like these or be part of their training but one supposes if you're not informed or too aware of the matter at hand it's rather easy to be drawn in, not question the official spiel about wonderful care, how much fun the nice fish have etc.
One of the things with killer whales is that they don't all use the same language depending on where they live; they are basically sub-species distinct from each other so as the film illustrates containing a series of disparate individuals together does not replicate what would have been their life in the wild. This also fuels a lot of aggressive behaviour and psychological damage in the opinion of some.
I did not feel this film was anthropomorphising the Orcas at all. Providing a personal account of a female whales mournful behaviour, giving long distance cries (apparantly not witnessed before in captivity) as observed by a marine biologist after her 3 year old calf was netted and removed from their tank to be given to another attraction, is not anthropomorphising anything. It is documenting normal emotional responses exhibited by an animal with the intelligence and emotional range to do so. Anthropomorphic behaviour is getting whales to jump thirty feet to ring a bell or dress up a sea lion whilst proclaiming that it's having fun and doing it because it wants to.
There is grainy footage of Tilikum attacking trainers and its sad to hear the emergency calls being made. Really shabby and embarassing though what Seaworld endeavour to withold from their own trainers who put themselves at enormous risks and their standard response that any deaths were not caused by the frustrations or disturbed personalities of the killer whales but the fault of the unfortunate trainer involved for making a mistake, or wearing a pony tail even. Dreadful.
There's a lot more in it's rather slim running time; the natural history of Orcas in the wild etc. It's not a happy experience to watch 'Blackfish' Tilikum is largely kept isolated these days only brought out for a short trick at the end of the daily shows that continue at these appalling venues. Hopefully Seaworlds days are numbered.
on 3 October 2014
As a nature lover I found this documentary a real heartwrenching watch.It asks, I feel more about the nature of humanity than it does to these highly intelligent creaturesThey bond in pods and stay loyal to each other in a way that us so called higher beings cannot. The inteligence in their eyes is there for all to see and it is WE who pay to watch a show whereby they perform for our ammusement is a shameful thing.These graceful creatures belong in the wild to roam our oceans free of molestation and abuse.As with sharks they kill only when they need to, out of necessity, and that is all.We pray on anything that moves, including ourselves.Humans, the superior being?
This documentary was and is a real eyeopener.Ok, a trainer was killed, but I think even if she was alive today she would not blame the orca for its actions.As the doc reveals this poor creature was, in its own way developing psychosis, literally going mad in an environment that was too small, mixed in with other orca, s from different pod families and systematically attacked by them.
I dont shed tears very often but on this occasion, watching this, I felt ashamed and disgusted.
Essential viewing, but LEARN from it.
on 13 November 2013
I was so eager to watch this being a huge lover of Orca whales, it lived up to my expectations and more. I cried throughout, I found this not only an educational documentary but a truly heart breaking one. Many have said that Blackfish is very one sided, personally I don't think it was. There are numerous interviews with ex employees of Sea World and to be honest I felt it was an eye opener rather than a witch hunt. I would say to anyone who has visited Sea World or the likes, watch this and see if you still feel the same about enjoying watching a wild creature doing tricks for your amusement. Anyone planning a visit to Sea World, perhaps this will make you think twice and if it doesn't there's very little hope for the human race
on 9 November 2014
Really good DVD, I'm never going to sea world, there are so many animals all over the world who are caged for our entertainment, and this DVD shows it with the Killer whales. A whale should be in the ocean, that's the only thing big enough for them, it's such a shame they live in such small tanks, but if Seaworld are many money who cares!
on 29 September 2013
Excellent documentary on what really goes on behind the scenes at SeaWorld. Orcas were NOT made to entertain humans. They swim 80-100 miles a day in the wild. No wonder they get frustrated and take out their frustrations on those who have them in captivity. The answer to this is "please don't buy a ticket to any of these places!" If you want to see wildlife see it in the wild.
on 8 October 2013
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.
on 15 May 2016
The moment I saw that first trailer for this film, I thought to myself, "I just HAVE to see that movie". And my whim was correct. This film, when I saw it, completely lived up to its hype. I mean, the inspiration behind this feature-length documentary could not be better. Discussing how captivity psychologically affected the orcas at Seaworld is a very necessary topic indeed, and one which will change perceptions in us all. I mean, I've always been a big advocator of animal rights and respect, but this film has made my respect for wild animals even firmer.
This film focusses on absolutely every major aspect of the matter, using multiple interviews with past orca trainers and marine mammal experts, to give us a thoroughly rich picture. What I also REALLY like about this film is that it also uses real footage of all the non-fatal orca attacks which took place. Not that I'm saying that I like seeing people being attacked by killer whales, but I think these scenes are a really necessary addition, really making you see for yourself just how mad those whales really went in those pens, rather than just listening to someone describing an attack and taking their word for it. It lends much more immediacy, and gets you to think more on a level with the people and animals who were affected. These scenes, and those which show interview footage of witnesses describing the fatal attacks and aftermaths of those, make this film a brutally powerful eye-opener to the costs of messing with Mother Nature's handywork. In places, I really was close to tears.
This most hard-hitting, distressing account of how brutal the human race can be towards animals is a must-see for simply everyone. It makes you question what really goes on behind the closed doors of zoos and other wildlife parks around the world. And it also makes you better appreciate the fact that at the end of the day, orcas are huge, highly powerful and highly nomadic creatures which are the polar opposite of something which is to be kept in an enclosure. Putting them in an environment like that will have devastating consequences.
Emotionally raw and thoroughly enlightening, Blackfish is a must.