Blackfish

Those are not your whales. Ya know, you love them, and you think, I’m the one that touches them, feeds them, keeps them alive, gives them the care that they need. They’re NOT your whales. They own them!

Year Released : 2013blackfish poster
Director : Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Cast : Numerous former trainers at Seaworld

I like a good documentary. I own numerous documentaries about a variety of subjects, including astronomy, football (or soccer for my American readers), nature (David Attenborough in particular) and various other subjects, but I never thought I’d watch a documentary about killer whales because, for lack of words, it’s not a subject that particularly interests me.

On Saturday evening I was seeing an old friend for the first time in nearly two years and after a while talking, she asked if I wanted to watch a documentary film called “Blackfish”. I’m not going to lie, I’d never heard of it before and because of my lack of interested in the subject matter, the idea of watching it didn’t exactly thrill me. The reason I was a bit sceptical at first as I tend to only watch documentaries that I’m interested in and the run time of around 85 minutes made it seem like it was going to drag. I was not excited at all.

Despite that, I thought I’d humour my friend and watch it anyway, afterall, it’s time with someone that I don’t see often, so why not? 85 minutes later I had found myself wanting more from it. It was an exceptionally clever documentary and considering I knew nothing of SeaWorld, Tilikum or many other aspects relating to this, I was genuinely surprised how much I enjoyed it.

Plot

The documentary focuses on the killer whale known as Tilikum at the SeaWorld resort in Orlando. It follows his journey from being captured in the early 1980s right up until he killed his trainer, Dawn Brancheau, in 2010.

A group of former SeaWorld employees and experts give their thoughts on why Tilikum, a normally happy and timid killer whale, would suddenly attack Brancheau, such as the tight enclosure that he is kept in overnight, the attacks he suffers at the hands of some of the female killer whales, or simply whether it is just part of his nature.

In between switching to and from other examples of trainers being attacked and/or killed at various other parks across America,  as well as various lies told by staff at similar parks with regards to the lifespan of whales and why their dorsal fins have collapsed.

orca-zimmerman-blackfish_fe

So why are you reviewing this?

Firstly, I’m going to be open about this, it’s going to be a short review for the simple and rather obvious fact that there is no character development possible, there are no plot twists or anything else I would normally be focused on.

I feel that if you give this documentary film a chance, you will enjoy it. As I mentioned earlier I was not at all optimistic about this being enjoyable or good, and yet I found myself engrossed by it. Although I love documentaries, once you’ve seen them about a specific subject then you’ve seen the majority of them, but this feels different and has a natural progression throughout.

It doesn’t feel forced, there are no definitive answers given, it’s all speculation about why a seemingly happy whale would suddenly attack when unprovoked, but because no-one knows the answer there is still that sense of mystery left with the animals. That works incredibly well because there are so many things in life that we will never truly understand, and wild animals are one of them.

Something I also touched on earlier was that I felt educated after watching Blackfish, which again isn’t something I usually take away from documentaries. I knew very little, if anything, of killer whales before this and the workings of SeaWorld. It doesn’t even cast SeaWorld in a ridiculously bad light. Granted, it doesn’t cast them in a positive light either, but it didn’t present a true “SeaWorld are bastards” style either.

My only two concerns or criticisms with the documentary are that there are so many people being interviewed that you are left wondering struggling to remember their names and what their former role was. They knew their subject matter exceptionally well and gave a well informed and relatively unbiased opinion on things, but by the end of the documentary that I had loved, I couldn’t tell you the name of a single one of the people being interviewed.

This, combined with constantly jumping from past to present and back again, as well as jumping to stories from other parks, makes it a little confusing to keep up if you’re not paying attention. If you’re not paying attention during this documentary then it would be easy to get lost in it.

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Summary

Again, I know this is a considerably shorter review than normal but there aren’t that many places that you can go with a review of a approveddocumentary, but I had to say that I loved Blackfish. It is an exceptionally well thought out and informative documentary that leaves you feeling exactly what a documentary should leave you feeling, educated.

Whilst it has some flaws, Blackfish is an engaging film and one that I never imagined that I would watch. So if you’re into documentaries then I would seriously recommend that you give it fit into your time somewhere.

 

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