Documentaries usually mean snore-fest to me, so I tend to ignore them on the whole, preferring to read the information rather than hear some super boring people drone on about something for the better part of two hours, if you’re lucky. Sometime last year, I started to hear a lot about Blackfish and how Sea World was getting fileted in the media because of their treatment of killer whales. Instead of trying to find the movie in question, I went online and found the article. The article did not do the documentary or the story justice.
There aren’t really any spoilers to be revealed, especially if you read the above referenced article. In the documentary Blackfish, the story of a young whale, Tilikum is told. Unfortunately for this whale, it involved three deaths and many attacks, all of which could have been potentially avoided had Sea World shared any information with their trainers or anyone else, for that matter.
The movie begins with how Sea World and other such places acquired the killer whales and this was a less than tasteful act, made worse as you watched the men who told how it was done were horrified when they realised what it was they were doing, though they continued on. Whales have families and the process by acquiring a whale, or any animal one would presume, was to isolate the babies and steal them from the parents. Whatever semblance of life the whales had before was gone and they would then be integrated into a ‘new’ family. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t create good relationships and the whales became aggressive with each other and the trainers. This should have been enough for someone to step in, but even in the 1970’s, there was no oversight that could protect either the humans or the whales.
The focus of the movie, Tilikum, is attacked by his fellow whales and his frustration starts to boil over and he attacks people, though these attacks are highly minimised so that business can go on as usual without interruption. Things never improve and Tilikum is seen on camera maiming and killing a trainer, receiving isolation for the rest of his life for it.
What is startling about this documentary are the number of trainers and experts that come out en mass, seeming disgusted and duped by everything that had happened. All of them paint a picture as if they didn’t know what was going on or suspected it but didn’t want to leave their whale friends without assistance. One could argue that their presence, ultimately, didn’t benefit anyone, but it is hard to say.
The documentary was unsettling and disturbing. It often amazes me when something can go on in the world with no oversight, more so considering how inundated we all are with media. Yet Sea World conducted their unscrupulous business practices until very recently, without any repercussions. The hype is well deserved for this movie and well worth seeing, though you may need some Kleenexes or a time-out halfway through just to process what you’re seeing.