If you haven’t seen Blackfish yet, you need to check it out. The documentary about SeaWorld has been making waves, and not just among animal activist groups. I got to interview some UT Arlington students about the film for work.
An excerpt from my article, originally published on The Shorthorn, UT Arlington’s student news website, on October 23, 2013:
“A killer whale named Tilikum killed Dawn Brancheau, one of the most experienced trainers at SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 24, 2010. This was the third time the whale was involved in an incident resulting in a human death.
“Why is SeaWorld surprised that a wild animal did this?” university studies senior Tania Rodriguez said. “You isolate them from their natural environment and put them in a tub, and then you wonder why this happened?”
Rodriguez, who is a member of the Mavs Marine Biology club, says she recently viewed an online trailer for the documentary Blackfish. It spiked her interest, because she recalled Brancheau’s incident from 2010.
The film made its premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in January and has been well received by critics, receiving a 98 percent “Certified Fresh” rating from Rotten Tomatoes. It has also made an impact on pop culture — after seeing the documentary, the directors of Finding Dory made the decision to modify their animated movie’s depiction of a marine animal park. CNN will broadcast Blackfish 8 p.m. Thursday.“
This documentary will change everything you ever thought you knew about SeaWorld. I mean seriously, even Pixar changed part of their Finding Dory movie script after seeing Blackfish. I saw it while it was showing at The Angelika Theater in Dallas, and it was amazing. It was intense…I had a lump in my throat the entire time.
When I saw the film, I was already aware of the issues and had strong convictions about keeping wild animals in captivity, from personal research and watching The Cove. However, I think Blackfish did a phenomenal job of articulating a very complex topic.
Not only did the documentary highlight the ethical implications of SeaWorld’s practices, but it also addressed the fact that if it was not for SeaWorld, many people would not have the chance to make a connection with these animals. I appreciated the presentation of this nuance. It is nice to be able to visit these animals up close and personal, but if we really care and love these creatures, we must put ourselves in the their position…what is the price of captivity? It’s an ironic issue, because parkgoers are often animal lovers, but they don’t realize what the animals are really going through. In the end, the exposure of the exploitation and the message about our capacity for caring about these amazing creatures is pretty simple, though. Friends who saw the documentary told me it changed their life.
“I think it has reached people way beyond the usual activists like myself,” Lochlaer said. “For me and others I spoke to at the screenings, the film really brought home the degree of suffering that these animals experience, and it really shows the danger that places like SeaWorld put their employees and trainers in for the sake of entertainment.” (Originally published on The Shorthorn, UT Arlington’s student news website, on October 23, 2013)
All images above are from the Blackfish Movie’s Facebook page.
Gabriela Cowperthwaite, director of the documentary Blackfish, hosted a Reddit forum that to engage the audience with Q&A and discussions. She also released a statement about why she made the film. To me, she is a brave and inspiring soul.
Excerpt from filmmaker’s statement:
“I knew immediately that I wanted SeaWorld to have a voice in the film. We e-mailed back and forth for about six months. I gave them every chance to talk, but they eventually declined. At that point, however, I had already began peeling back the onion. And my journey of shock and discovery was well underway.
I have made television documentaries for 15 years, but “Blackfish” is my second feature documentary and my first one to have found theatrical distribution. I can’t say this was an easy film to make. There were nightmares, too many autopsy reports, sobbing interviewees and unhappy animals.
And I was scared. SeaWorld is a $2 billion a year entity, and they’ll do anything to protect their greatest asset: Shamu. But as I moved forward I knew that in telling this story in an honest and fact-driven way, I was telling the truth. It sounds cliché but it’s really that simple. At some point you’re simply compelled, in spite of yourself, to tell a story that needs to be told no matter how scared you are of an entity that could squash you.“
CNN will be broadcasting Blackfish Thursday at 9/8 Central. It will be available on DVD and Netflix on November 12th of this year. If you see the movie, please let me know about your thoughts in the comments below.
Do wild animals belong in captivity? You can already guess my answer, but I encourage you to see the film and make the conclusion for yourself.
- Filmmaker: Why I made ‘Blackfish’ (cnn.com)
- ‘Blackfish’ sparks debate over taking kids to animal parks (cnn.com)
- CNN is airing “Blackfish” Thursday at 9. Watch with us and join the live twitter chat! (southernfriedscience.com)
- SeaWorld responds to questions about captive orcas, ‘Blackfish’ film (peace4animalscornwall.wordpress.com)
- ‘Blackfish’ sparks debate over taking kids to animal parks (fox2now.com)
- “Blackfish” Does New Film Signal the End of Captive Dolphin Exploitation? (fidest.wordpress.com)