Monday, December 30, 2013

Blackfish (USA, 2013)

Nine Things about Blackfish

1. Don’t be fooled by the oddly bland title, or the fact that you may not have heard of this film. This is a stunning and heart wrenching documentary - perhaps the best of the year.

2. In 2010, SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by a whale at the park. The official news story was that Dawn made a mistake by letting her ponytail hang out, and the whale grabbed it and she got pulled under. Filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite thought the story sounded suspicious, so she started digging around. The result was this film.

3. While the death of Brancheau is the hook of “Blackfish”, that topic isn’t really dealt with until the end. The movie is much deeper and more comprehensive than that. It’s a compilation of interviews, court testimony, SeaWorld commercials, and home video over several decades.

4. It documents 30 years of SeaWorld’s actions, including accounts of how they capture, treat, and train the orcas, especially one particular killer whale, Tilikum.

5. By contrasting SeaWorld’s public image with what really was going on behind the scenes, this movie reaches far beyond one sad incident and becomes a blistering indictment of SeaWorld itself.

6. SeaWorld is understandably upset at this film, and released a statement saying, in part, “Blackfish is billed as a documentary, but instead of a fair and balanced treatment of a complex subject, the film is inaccurate and misleading... to promote its bias that killer whales should not be maintained in a zoological setting, the film paints a distorted picture…”

7. Interestingly, the filmmakers repeatedly asked SeaWorld to be interviewed for “Blackfish”, and SeaWorld repeatedly declined, only releasing that statement after the film came out. That was probably smart on SeaWorld’s part. I don’t see any way they could successfully defend themselves here.

8. Pixar studios is currently working on “Finding Dory”, a sequel to “Finding Nemo”. When the director of that movie saw “Blackfish”, he rewrote parts of the film, including the ending.

9. If enough people see this movie, it may be able to single-handedly take down SeaWorld.