An extreme examination always makes an impression, especially when talking about documentaries. The Academy Award winning film "The Cove" knew this all to well and got average folks to invest in the plight of shameful dolphin slaughter by engaging them with something to both hear (stories of woe) AND see (covert mission to show what goes on inside is deliciously defiant) – powerful tools indeed. The new doc on both the emotionally wounded killer whales held in captivity and the aquatic parks that house them called "Blackfish" doesn’t quite have the "Mission Impossible" gusto of "The Cove," but nevertheless does contain similar important and eye opening material that makes it required viewing for anyone with a soul.
Ever since the recent death of SeaWorld Trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010 most have probably though the practice of circus-like human interaction with dangerous sea creatures was finally over. Sadly, the practice of keeping such animals in small and confined spaces for a profit is still going on and as we learn from her former co-workers Dawn was no isolated incident. Through many candid conversations with multiple former lead trainers at both the now closed Sealand (where Dawn’s killer Tilikum the whale was from and had killed years before) and SeaWorld, "Blackfish" is a sad story involving everything from hiring youngsters with a lack of experience and total cover up of any injury or death to save corporate butt.
The sad part is that it's not all together so shocking, but what is does ignite fire is the inhuman lengths that SeaWorld is willing to go to never accept responsibility. Incidents are written off as trainer error, animal behavior problems ignored and even false stories are constructed to mask the problems within. (They even tried to blame Dawn for her own death - thank goodness for video cameras!) "Blackfish" wisely uses it's first hand accounts to hit home the really important questions. Is this the type of America we want to live in? Has money, greed and power really won out over human compassion? And if so, why are we paying to see it on display?
"Blackfish" is less a call to arms and more a mirror being held up for us to see what we have become. Willing to ignore the obvious, giving a cold shoulder to both animal and man and all for the glory of the almighty dollar, SeaWorld may indeed be a modern day villain in this sad story, but we all provide safe haven in the form of money that keeps them going. The true shame lies with us all.
"BLACKFISH" OPENS IN SELECT THEATERS JULY 19 FROM MAGNOLIA PICTURES.
Cast: John Hargrove, John Jett, Carol Ray
Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Release Company: Magnolia Pictures