A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
The mind of an animal is something that humans are yet to fully understand and most likely never will. We understand that animals learn through practices such as conditioning which involves rewards and consequences over repetitious time periods, however even after we believe an animal is fully trained and trustworthy, they’re easily capable of misbehaviour, sometimes at such an extreme level, that fatalities can occur.
The documentary from 2013 that explores the tragic death of a sea world trainer at the hands of an unstable orca, “Blackfish”, is compelling, harrowing and above all, an in depth analysis regarding what actually goes on behind closed doors.
“Blackfish” focuses on Tilikum, a captive killer whale that over it’s lifespan, became increasingly unstable and unpredictable. The title of beast is very appropriate given the circumstances that took place. In 2010, experienced Seaworld trainer Dawn Branchau was killed by Tilikum in unusual and shocking fashion. An incredible tragedy for the onlooking audience, the Seaworld staff and of course Branchau’s family, “Blackfish” is a heartbreaking exploration that analyses events leading up to this horrific incident.
As the documentary becomes increasingly in depth, the audience learn from various Seaworld trainers about the secrecy, falseness of information and cruelty to animals shown by the Seaworld owners (not trainers!), business associates an almost the entire top-end panel of the corporation itself. Not only do we understand that these people ultimately had no clue as to what they were doing to these animals from a moral perspective, we learn that it was in fact the trainers themselves that understood, appreciated and connected with the orcas the most. The passion these trainers show when discussing such events and topics really adds emotional engagement to the piece, generating immense sympathy, all the while fuelling an enraged fiery disgust towards the business of it all.
False cover-ups, unfair blame and mistreatment of killer whales are three primary elements explored in “Blackfish”. The idea of separating a mother from it’s child is sickening, but ultimately, it’s business, as shown in this impassioned recollection of recent events.
The life of Tilikum is both a joyous and sorrowful one. Taken at such a young age in 1983, this cash cow of an orca was brought up in captivity and had no real knowledge of the real world. The poor orca’s life was spent in the equivalent of a fishbowl, shared with two others. As mentioned by one of the associated trainers, Tilikum was a ticking time bomb.
What this says about captivity and showcasing animals as a form of entertainment is very powerful and passionate. The business of animal training and exhibiting is both potentially life threatening and inhumane at the crux of it all, and Tilikum’s actions prove this tenfold.
Emotional, tragic and thought provoking, “Blackfish” is a powerful documentary that really makes one think about giving a business such as Seaworld money to continue exploiting these poor mistreated creatures. With disturbingly unpleasant statistics and facts regarding the capturing, relocating and showcasing of these animals coming straight form the trainers themselves, “Blackfish” is honest, factual and aims to send a powerful message.
The message is loud and clear!