Blackfish is a dark documentary that discusses the consequences of keeping orcas in captivity. It mainly focuses on the famous SeaWorld incident where a trainer was killed by an orca named Tilikum, tracing this back to previous events that may have had a psychologically traumatic impact on Tilikum. The documentary presents its case by stringing together a series of interviews with former SeaWorld trainers, along with scientists and individuals involved with the capturing of orcas, to present their experiences and knowledge on the topic. In this sense, we are given a story of Tilikum’s entire life that begins from how he was captured in the wild to his treatment and containment in different parks.
The documentary itself is quite compelling, as the format of presenting the “story” of Tilikum gives it a more personal touch that effectively pulls the right emotional strings. There is less scientific analysis into the effects of captivity on orcas on their well-being; yet, in my opinion, this ultimately works to the favour of the documentary’s message: we don’t have a great understanding of the capabilities and intelligence of orcas and so it is wrong of us to submit them to captivity for the purposes of human entertainment.
So did the documentary succeed in what it sought to achieve? Did it convince me that orca captivity, and possibly marine animal captivity, is wrong? This documentary is bound to move you emotionally in one way or another, and it indeed raises awareness about the business and conduct of marine parks. Sure, it may be lacking in providing hard evidence and scientific explanations, but it’s enough to encourage us to raise questions and look further into the captivity of marine animals. Overall, as a vessel for raising awareness, it’s a job well done; I recommend anyone remotely interested in special interests films to give it a watch.