Entertainment Magazine

Blackfish: Who’s the Real Beast?

Posted on the 19 September 2013 by Haricharanpudipeddi @pudiharicharan
Blackfish: Who’s the Real Beast?

Movie: Blackfish

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite

Cast: Kim Ashdown, Ken Balcomb, Samantha Berg, Dave Duffus and Howard Garett

Rating: ****

It’s so ironic that killer whales have ‘killer’ in their name and yet are very friendly to human beings. They are considered second friendliest animal after dolphins, with similar level of intelligence. However, every living creature, a circus animal too, has a breaking point, when even the most harmless one turns violent in a jiffy. “Blackfish”, a tragic documentary on how human captors unleashed the beast in a killer whale named Tilikum, who went on to kill three individuals, including a top whale trainer.

The documentary unfolds in SeaWorld, a marine-park where whales are trained to put on a show for big bucks. Initially, it all looks wonderful as the camera pans through the high-spirited audience seen clapping to what was supposed to be a spectacular show. The show turns out to be hit, pleased managers of SeaWorld are ecstatic, and so are the trainers who spent hours training the whales.

Minutes later, we are given a sneak peak of the conditions in which these whales, also known as orcas, are trained and held captive. The training process with the wetsuit-clad trainers include parading around the swimming pool at the blow of a whistle, jumping few feet off the water to make a big splash with the dive, and finally carrying the trainers on their backs as kids would piggyback on parents.

The orcas are also bred for other high-profiled buyers around the world in the most unnatural conditions and are later separated from their offspring. Tilikum, the ‘killer whale’ was also bred by his owners despite his dysfunctional behavior. His descendants with similar homicidal behavior were distributed to other marine-parks around the world. This paved way to an entire race of orcas, with similar behavioral tendency of Tilikum and his killer instincts.

The story is about one orca, Tilikum, in particular and how he was driven mad after being used as a public attraction at a water park. Most of the film, which is as gripping as a serial-killer film, is self explanatory, revolving around incidents eventually leading to the death of three individuals.

The documentary features a series of interviews of trainers at SeaWorld and few witnesses to incidents that killed one individual. It becomes devastating as you hear the trainers share incidents that they encountered at SeaWorld, but couldn’t do anything because it was their bread and butter. As the trainers narrate their association with the organization, one can see the guilt on their faces and feel compassion in their voices. Even though they were highly passionate trainers, who developed wonderful relationship with whales, it’s only when they walk down the memory lane, they realize the pain those animals were put through.

Most of the trainers agreed to contribute to this documentary because SeaWorld after the death of the three individuals conveniently blamed the trainers, as they were responsible for their own deaths. The organization even successfully nullified cases that were prosecuted against it citing same reasons. It is through the eyes of several trainers, we hear what is likely to be the truth and it’s tragic.

“Blackfish” is not a story about man versus wild, but it’s about how man awakens the beast within him to do what is terribly unaccepted with animals. Scenes where mother whales mourn in isolation when they are separated from their calves for days are tear-jerking. In essence, the film asks important questions and fuels further debate about whether creatures should be caged for our enjoyment and education.

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