Thursday, December 26, 2013

Movie with Abe: Blackfish

Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Released July 19, 2013 / DVD November 12, 2013

If there’s one topic that can truly ignite passion among a wide audience, it’s animals. Pets are beloved by many, and those animals not quite as domestically manageable also have the rights they themselves can’t stand up for trumpeted by ardent activists and even those with just a passing interest in treating animals as compassionately as humans. “Blackfish,” the story of killer whale Tilikium, a killer whale at SeaWorld who has been involved in the deaths of multiple trainers, is a scathing investigation into the ethically questionable journey of Tilikium to his current residence and the factors that contributed to his role in the unfortunate deaths of those working with him.

“Blackfish,” a finalist for the Best Documentary Oscar category, is best analyzed alongside “The Cove,” the controversial Oscar winner for that same category in 2009. That film probed into a subject not often spotlighted and presented startling revelations, serving as a stirring call to action to change the way the world turns a blind eye to how precious, adorable animals are treated. “Blackfish” takes a similar approach, profiling Tilikium and outlining the timeline of how he got to where he is. Expectedly, SeaWorld and others are far from pleased, and that’s exactly the point of this exposé.

There are many layers to “Blackfish,” and all take care to demonize the practices and institutions that led to the deaths of human beings during their interactions with Tilikium. Former coworkers of one of the deceased trainers share her dedication to her job, and the horrific nature of the organizational response to her death, which consisted mainly of a party line about her being blamed for getting herself killed due to a mistake she made. Simultaneously, animal experts describe a call made by a whale in captivity that they had never heard before that demonstrated just how much the animal wished to be reunited with its child. Juggling both dimensions of a complicated situation is not an easy task, and this film does so commendably.

Like many such films, “Blackfish” succeeds most by the sheer strength of its arguments and the unwillingness of the offending organization to comment when asked. Archive footage proves damning enough, and this is the kind of film where the experience continues, with SeaWorld now publicly responding following the film’s DVD release to deny many of its claims. This is an excellent companion piece to the narrative film “Rust and Bone” from last year, which tracks one possible consequence of the situation in which whales in captivity are currently in, presenting a heart-wrenching and blood-boiling story too unbelievable to ignore.


No comments: