Monday, August 19, 2013

Anti-SeaWorld Doc BLACKFISH Makes A Convincing Case


(Dir. Gabriela Cowperthwaite, 2013)

Between Marion Cotillard’s on-the-job accident at a ocean theme amusement park in Jacques Audiard’s 2012 French drama RUST AND BONE, and this new documentary concerning a 12,000 pound Orca whale - still a tourist attraction in Orlando, Florida, to this day despite having killed three people - SeaWorld has been taking quite a beating on the indie art house circuit lately.

BLACKFISH, playing now at the Colony in Raleigh through Tuesday night (the 27th), and at the Carolina Theatre in Durham August 19th-August 28th as as part of Magnolia Pictures’ Summer Documentary Series, focuses primarily on a 32-year old male whale named Tilikum.

Through the testimonies of experts like orca researcher Ken Balcomb, and whale researcher David Duffus, we learn SeaWorld’s controversial history of capturing killer whales such as Tilikum, the circumstances that led to three tragic deaths (the most recent: trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010), and the corporate spin on the casualties that resulted.

Director Cowperthwaite, who also wrote and edited the film with Eli B. Despres, builds the well paced narrative by way of amateur video, surveillance camera footage, and clips from local and national news coverage.

Some critics have likened it to a thriller, but while it does have chilling (and sometimes disgusting) moments of scariness) it’s more just a particularly dramatic documentary to me. It’s got an emotional resonance strong enough to make Pixar reconsider the ending of their sequel to FINDING NEMO (FINDING DORY, due in 2015). I admit, it had me tearing up at times. Tearing up over a killer whale, that's right.

At a brisk 83 minutes, BLACKFISH is a concise, and intensely watchable film that makes a strong case that killer whales should not be contained in tiny quarters for the purpose of entertaining humans. 

Sure it’s biased, as SeaWorld claims in a written statement criticizing the film, but since no representative of the major amusement park chain agreed to go on camera (an ending disclaimer tells us that SeaWorld officials repeatedly declined to be interviewed”), and all the huge amount of anecdotal evidence from scores of scientists, researchers, former SeaWorld trainers, and noted Orca experts, how could it not be?

More later...

No comments: