Never capture what you can't control

"Blackfish" tells the story of Tilikum, a performing orca whale and his captivity. Over his long career as a performer at SeaWorld (and other similar water parks), Tilikum is accused of killing three different trainers. The coverage of Tilikum includes his capture in 1983 off the coast of Iceland, and purported harassment by fellow captive orcas at Sealand of the Pacific—incidents that director-producer Gabriela Cowperthwaite argues contributed to the orca's aggression. Cowperthwaite compiles shocking footage and emotional interviews to explore the creature’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity, the lives and losses of the trainers and the pressures brought to bear by the multi-billion dollar sea-park industry. Cowperthwaite also focuses on SeaWorld's claims that lifespans of orcas in captivity are comparable to those in the wild, typically 30 years for males and 50 years for females, a claim the film argues is false. The film includes a testimonial from Lori Marino, Director of Science with the Nonhuman Rights Project. Other interview subjects include former SeaWorld trainers, such as John Hargrove, who describe their experiences with Tilikum and other captive whales.

Cowperthwaite began work on the film after the February 2010 death of Tilikum's trainer Dawn Brancheau and in response to the claim that the orca had targeted Brancheau because she had worn her hair in a ponytail. Cowperthwaite argued that this claim had been conjecture and that "there had to be more to this story".

This emotionally wrenching, tautly structured story challenges us to consider our relationship to nature and reveals how little we humans have learned from these highly intelligent and enormously sentient fellow mammals.

With somewhat shocking pictures, director Gabriela Cowperthwaite draws attention to the psychological and physical suffering of the whales in captivity. It shows how sensitive and unpredictable the mammals are - and how little we actually know about them. Her emotionally driven film not only reproaches to the profitable entertainment industry, but also proves that the welfare of the animal is not to be reduced for the pleasure of the human being, and sea mammals must be freed from the "Free Willy" cliche.

Director(s): Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Script: Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Eli Despres, Tim Zimmermann
Production: Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Manny O Productions, Manuel V. Oteyza
Music: Jeff Beal
Actors: James Earl Jones, John Hargrove, Samantha Berg, Mark Simmons, Kim Ashdown, Dean Gomersall, Carol Ray, John Jett, Dawn Brancheau, Jeffrey Ventre, Thomas Tobin, Dave Duffus, Jim Payne, Martha Sugalski, Whoopi Goldberg, David Kirby, Anderson Cooper, John Crowe
Year: 2013
Duration: 83 min
Picture format: 16:9
Our age recommendation: 12
Language (audio): German, English
Language (subtitles): German
Country of origin: United States
Shooting Locations: United States
Screening rights: Spot on Distribution (Switzerland)


Main topic(s): Oceans
Secondary topics: wildlife
Mentions: sea ​​world tilikum killer imprisonment accidents animals orca
Topic Page(s): Oceans

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