Blackfish (♦♦♦♦½)

Blackfish is a documentary, part exposé, part eye-opener about the incredibly lucrative industry of Seaworld parks. Half emotional journey and half business-like, Blackfish presents interviews with former Seaworld trainers who admitted having been part of a culture that misleads the public repeating factoids surrounding orcas such as how most male orcas develop collapsed fins even in the wild and how orcas live for 25-35 years when in reality male orcas can live up to sixty years in the wild while females are known to live up to 100 years.

Blackfish explores the beginnings of Tillikum as a bullied young calf separated from his mother and put in a dingy pool about 20x30 feet with two dominant females in a sea park in Canada, until Tillikum as a young adult kills a trainer for the first time and his subsequent transfer to Seaworld as a breeding bull, where he was kept in more isolation and with little stimulus.

The counterpart to Tillikum and other orcas' incidents involving animal trainers is the court case of OSHA vs. Seaworld in which OSHA makes the case that Seaworld has knowingly endangered its trainers by putting them in contact with animals that may kill them.

I got to say that Blackfish is a great documentary and makes its point very effectively. I went to Miami Seaquarium a few years ago and saw a show involving an orca and I remember thinking what an awesome job that was. Well, listening to those former trainers, some of whom knew Dawn Brancheau--the last trainer killed by Tillikum-- and at least one of them who had personally interacted with Tillikum, was not only emotional but eye-opening; I got goosebumps.

Ultimately what I think is that Seaworld is in a very uncomfortable situation since releasing Tillikum at this stage of the game would be inhumane but keeping him is equally so.