Blackfish (2013)

All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m an INTELLIGENT BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!’ So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your pools. I want you to get up right now and go to the porthole. Open it, and stick your head in, and yell, ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYM-ORCA!’ I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your portholes, open them and stick your head in and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anym-orca!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad! You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anym-orca!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your pools, open the porthole, stick your head in, and yell, and say it: ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYM-ORCA!’

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Writers: Gabriela CowperthwaiteEli B. DespresTim Zimmermann
Starring: TilikumShamu

This documentary is very effective at making you sad for orcas in the first half, and somewhat less effective in the latter half where it ignores all of that and focuses on how SeaWorld is constantly trying to slip out of legal trouble. The emotional human/orca elements are fantastic and troubling, but when it moves on to shitty business practices and the money made from jerking off an orca (Which could be its own movie, and holy shit I didn’t expect to see orca dick all of a sudden, what the fuck was that), it loses some traction, and feels a bit mechanical. But where else are you going to put the story of a captive orca who gradually learns to spice up his super-boring life of imprisonment by hurting people? I don’t know if this is at all relevant, but I’ve never seen Free Willy. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a CGI kid’s movie about orcas pretty soon, but maybe Free Willy already drained that well of potential decades ago. If I watch Free Willy now, will I be able to avoid channeling Twelve Years a Slave?

I learned a few things and was strongly provoked by the compelling opening… so yeah, it’s worth your time to check it out.

SeaWorld has, of course, strongly accused this documentary of being misleading and libelous, and that it is “merely” anti-captivity propaganda. That last bit is… well… duh, right? Some of the documentary is, technically, misleading (But in the name of the narrative they are pursuing, which is necessary when making something you want people to watch and like). But they sure seem unable to refute the film’s claims that they are liars and charlatans, or the film’s assertions of orca intelligence, the conditions they are kept in, and how it affects their health and life expectancy!

I guess we’ll see how things shake out, but it can’t be a bad start (On either side of the debate) to raise awareness of the topic. Before this documentary, all I knew about SeaWorld was that it was a depressing and boring place to visit.

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