Blackfish is one part classic tale of corporate greed, and one part lesson in the marine psychology of killer whales. It starts with an emotional argument but has enough logic to make a powerful statement.
The documentary presents anecdotes from former trainers and combines them with archival footage. It traces the life of the infamous Tilikum from the time he was captured from the wild to his turbulent adulthood. Disillusioned and misled trainers unwittingly become accomplices to keep the business going, thinking that they have a special “relationship” with the animal.
This effectively shows that the killer whale’s so-called psychosis is caused by his life as an animal entertainer, doing petty tricks while being kept in an environment that’s a poor substitute for his natural habitat.
The narrative branches out into other important points to further establish that these animals are not meant to be kept for amusement.
Blackfish points out that killer whales or Orcas are sentient and intelligent creatures. It piles on evidence that attacks on trainers are not isolated events nor are they exclusive to Tilikum only. These are supported by facts, documentation, and statements from experts.
The film is not without its flaws. The documentary stops in 2010, which fails to ground it in the present. The ending looks contrived.
Nonetheless, Blackfish is a powerful documentary that will make you rethink the Sea Park industry, killer whales and animals in captivity, and our place as a species. It’s not just about corporate greed or a call for empathy. It also shows the effect of human arrogance.
Blackfish is a damning case against keeping wild animals in captivity, as well as an effective cautionary tale about human arrogance.