Blackfish is an insightful look into the most dangerous creature on earth and raises some difficult questions. See this film - Blackfish Film Review

Tuesday, July 30, 2013 Craig Grobler 2 Comments

Blackfish ReviewIn the title of this post I am of course referring to man when referencing the most dangerous creature on Earth. Gabriela Cowperthwaite Co-Writer and Director of Blackfish not only paints a disturbing picture of Man vs Nature but Man vs Man. I should preface this post by mentioning I have been fortunate to dive around the globe and have come face to face with many sea creatures - friendly & otherwise and anyone who does not think that there is intelligence behind the eyes of these creatures has been deprived of information.

Blackfish Quad Film Poster
Blackfish Quad Film Poster (Click to enlarge)
Over the last couple of years I have been disappointed with the majority of documentaries I have seen the crux of it is that for budding filmmakers Documentary film is seen as an "easier "route into filmmaking than making an actual film. I have no problem with this in principle in fact two of my favourite documentary films; Taking Liberties & Starsuckers come from such a filmmaker - Chris Atkins and both those documentary films are brilliant and shocking in equal measure.

Blackfish Killer Whales doing natural things
Blackfish Killer Whales doing natural things in nature (Click to enlarge)
But a pitfall of this approach seems to be exposed when choosing subject matter - the natural choice given the challenges of making a film would seem to be to tackle something that the filmmaker had a predilection for. So in essence we end up with a fan writing a love letter to their passion, made for other fans. Studios recognising that there is money to be made in fan films quickly jumped on the bandwagon leading to an abysmal user centric trend in documentary making. Rather than a balanced and informative piece of media (or boring stuff as we used to call it) we are been deluged by the equivalent of postcard documentaries, a facade representing what the filmmaker likes and very little of the depth or complexity of the subject.

Blackfish Killer Whales doing unnatural things
Blackfish Killer Whales doing unnatural things in captivity at Seaworld
As an example, dare I say it in public *whispers* Senna. After watching the aforementioned film I know 3 things: he was Brazilian, he could have done anything with his life but was born to race (bit of an oxymoron surely?) and finally he was great (as everyone in the film testifies to this). Not much takeaway for a 90 minute film. "Yet despite a limited release, it set a UK box office record for a documentary of £375,000 on its opening weekend" - from IMDB.

Thankfully we still have documentaries been made that are concerned with relevance and meaning and a lot of these seem to be about spreading an awareness of environmentalism hinged around some quite frankly disturbing events. Like or hate the filmmaker's message,film or methods - they expose some horrendous and indisputable stuff, stuff we would otherwise never be aware of - like Louie Psihoyos's powerful The Cove focussing on the inhumane slaughter of dolphins in Taji Japan and Gabriela Cowperthwaite's Blackfish.

Blackfish Killer Whales doing natural things in nature
Blackfish Killer Whales doing natural things in nature (Click to enlarge)
Ultimately the only thing more devastating than the senseless destruction of nature for financial gain is our apparent lack of being able to do anything about it  - we stand by and watch species after species slowly dwindle into Yangtze river dolphin driven to extinction. Which does raise all of kinds of questions about the world we live in as well as chip away at my faith in humanity.

Blackfish Killer Whales doing unnatural things in captivity
Blackfish Killer Whales doing unnatural things in captivity (Click to enlarge)
Of course these are a lot of complex issues around environmental factors and fewer solutions but Blackfish brings this all little closer to home as it takes place not in some far flung remote part of the world that our our nasty little secrets are easily swept under the carpet - but in the good old USA and in the unsuspecting eye of the public.

Blackfish Tilikum Orca
Blackfish Tilikum Orca (Click to enlarge)
Blackfish is as much a film about reaping what you sow vis-à-vis the inhumane treatment of intelligent creatures as it is about corporate greed and how much some people will try get away with before someone does something about it. The 83 minute documentary focuses on Tilikum an Orcinus orca or as they are more commonly known Killer Whale or Shamu the pride and joy of SeaWorld Orlando, Florida.

In the heart wrenching and disturbing film we discover that Tilikum has killed 3 humans whilst in captivity. It should be noted that Killer Whales in the wild have attacked but never actually killed a human.  Gabriela Cowperthwaite and co-writer Eli B. Despres peel back layer after layer to reveal the treatment that may have turned Tilikum into a ticking time bomb - this is brutal.

But more disturbing is SeaWorld's cover up as they try whitewash events. This is genuinely frightening stuff and if events are as real as they are portrayed in the film - surely criminal. SeaWorld seems to employ unethical social engineering in its indoctrination of staff into its corporate ways straight out of the playbook of a third world dictator,  Bond villain or Stanford prison Professor.

My understanding is that SeaWorld were asked to participate in Blackfish but declined and have subsequently responded - you can read both SeaWorld's response and the maker's of Blackfish counter responses here: http://blackfishmovie.com/news?seaworld_reacts_button. I have drawn my own conclusions and urge you to do the same after seeing Blackfish.

Video: Blackfish Trailer 

Despite being a very well constructed and intelligent film that handles this shocking subject sensitively - I am not going to lie Blackfish is not easy viewing and the events uncovered are so disgusting that you may struggle to believe they took place - yet 3 people are dead. Anyone interested in nature, the sea, trying to understand greed & the deadliest creature on Earth or thinking of an exciting career as a SeaWorld Trainer should see Blackfish.

For more information and to find out about local screenings head over to: http://blackfishmovie.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/BlackfishTheMovie

Blackfish is in cinemas from 26 July 2013 now
Blackfish tells the story of Tilikum, a performing killer whale that killed several people while in captivity. Along the way, director-producer Gabriela Cowperthwaite compiles shocking footage and emotional interviews to explore the creature’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity, the lives and losses of the trainers and the pressures brought to bear by the multi-billion dollar sea-park industry. This emotionally wrenching, tautly structured story challenges us to consider our relationship to nature and reveals how little we humans have learned from these highly intelligent and enormously sentient fellow mammals.

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Stars: Samantha Berg, Dave Duffus, Dean Gomersall


Wanna fight?
Craig is a retired superhero, an obsessive hobbyist, comics fan, gadget lover & flâneur who knows an unhealthy amount about Ian Fleming's James Bond.

When not watching or making films he takes pictures, eats, drinks, dives, tries to connect to nature whilst mentally storyboarding the greatest film ever made. He also  & sometimes utilises owl-themed gadgets to fight crime. 

A list of his 132 favourite films can be found hereIf you would still like to contact Craig please use any of the buttons below: 

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  1. Gerard Kennelly8 August 2013 at 22:05

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QcN42wv-cg&feature=youtu.be&a scary stuff

  2. scary stuff indeed.