I had the pleasure of being able to catch a one-time screening of Blackfish at the USA Film Festival in Dallas this weekend. I had high expectations for this film following many positive and amazing reviews; I was blown away and all my expectations were all met plus some!
The film opens with a powerful scene that will draw you in almost instantly. The interviews performed by ex-SeaWorld trainers were incredible: moving, emotional and heartbreaking at times. Several of their accounts in this film were brand new to the public. Former employee Carol Ray shares a memory about the removal of the original baby Shamu, Katina, and her mother, Kalina’s heart wrenching reaction had me in tears along with the entire theater. Another former trainer, John Hargrove, recalls a similar event with yet another baby ripped away from its mother. Seeing the chilling footage of this beautiful being crying out for her baby broke my heart; that scene will forever remain vivid to me.
Tilikum, the Killer Whale responsible for Dawn Brancheau’s death in 2010, is not portrayed as a killer or monster in this movie. It’s apparent the film maker was careful to paint a more insightful picture of an Orca who has spent many years of his life suffering. Many detailed narratives from previous trainers and Orca experts add to this to prove to the public a very important point skipped over by the media; perhaps Tilikum isn’t the only one responsible for such an awful situation. The film is thought provoking enough you will question the very facility you thought you trusted!
Brace yourself for other scenes in this movie that will move you to tears; bring tissues because you will need them! The terrifying near-death scenes of Orca attacks on trainers will have you gripping the edge of your seat. SeaWorld’s awful PR spins of these attacks later presented to the public as “trainer error” will leave you feeling betrayed and angry. Lastly, SeaWorld’s complete and utter disregard for their employees safety will leave a lasting impact sure to change your views on captivity forever. Overall this film was powerful, emotional, sensitive, and informative. It will forever be viewed as a “game changer” in the business of holding Killer Whales in captivity. Visiting SeaWorld will never be the same for you once you’ve viewed this film.
Blackfish is slated for national theater-wide release this summer. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled on the Blackfish website and Facebook page for more up-to-date information. You won’t want to miss this, I assure you!