Film Review: Blackfish
Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Written by Gabriela Cowperthwaite and Eli Despres
Directors of photography – Jonathan Ingalls and Christopher Towey
Edited by Eli Despres
Music Supervision by Jeff Beal
Produced by Manuel V. Oteyza and Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Distribution by Magnolia Pictures
Running time: 1 hour 23 minutes
Whenever there is an story on activism, the documentarian or advocate walks a balancing act that has to be perfect. Not hitting a subject hard enough doesn’t pull your audience in, and too much too soon, you risk being called an overexcited zealot quick to place blame in getting a message across. For the 2013 Sundance premiered documentary Blackfish, director Gabriela Cowperthwaite manages to walk the line between righteousness and warning, while maintaining a visually appealing film that will convince audiences to never want to step foot into another SeaWorld – or anything resembling the park – ever again.
Inspired by the renowned killing of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, Cowperthwaite crafted Blackfish as a three part film – investigative report, humanitarian effort for the care of captive whales and a pulpit piece on corporations and Big Business in their participation of keeping both trainers and animals safe and secure. As the film opens in 2012 on our central character Tilikum, a 32-year old, 6-ton orca residing in SeaWorld, Orlando and involved with three previous deaths of trainers since his capture in 1983. Through the course of the 83 min. documentary, audiences are given a glimpse into a living biography, training and inadequate living conditions which Tilikum has had to endure for his life – the short list which includes cramped and darkened sleeping tanks, dilapidated resources and bullying techniques for training – these items (as one could have guessed) haven’t been restricted to just Tilikum, but being he’s the most notorious killer whale in the World – the spotlight has it advantages. Overall all three topics of the film are handled with equality and even depth resulting in a balanced feature that delves into a market that has been relatively shrouded in secret and left to its own devices. Furthermore, the inherently blind eye that the general public has turned from the powers that be has proven an immorality in holding the orcas captive – just as with the document The Cove, Blackfish has proven its time to bring these important matters to light.
Cowperthwaite has presented much of Blackfish with a cross section of footage compiled from home video, promotional materials and behind-the-glass observation. Visually one doesn’t fully get what’s on the level of this year’s other seafaring doc Leviathan, but what the footage does show the danger and scale to which Blackfish’s crew is working on/with & proves that these gentle giants should be also respected as the powerfully magnificent creatures that they are; all one can do is watch with mouth agape.
Overall, Blackfish is a respectable documentary that blends investigative journalism and a pro-stance on it’s message without generally going overboard. If nothing else, audiences should take this film in if for only the last few minutes of this film – a field trip with the SeaWorld Ex-trainers to view orcas in their natural habitat; audiences will be left with a sense of wonderment & appreciation at who those in the water and behind the glass.
Fresh Roasted Rating: B+
Check out the full Blackfish review HERE
Producer of Fresh Roasted Films
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