Film review: Blackfish (15)


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The Independent Culture

Save the whale? After watching this documentary about the mistreatment of killer whales, you'll never mock that sentiment again. Gabriela Cowperthwaite's sobering film recounts the story of Tilikum, an orca snatched from its mother as a calf and set to work entertaining the public at SeaWorld, an aquatic theme park in Florida.

Whales are highly intelligent, complicated and sensitive creatures that swim up to a hundred miles a day in the wild, where they belong; at SeaWorld they are confined for life to a large swimming pool.

Tilikum, isolated and wounded by mama whales, had nowhere to run. In 2010 an experienced park trainer, Dawn Brancheau, was pulled under by Tilikum and killed; the whale had flipped. By all accounts it had killed before (the clue is in the name), though officials attempted to pass it off as an accident.

Former trainers at SeaWorld confess in interview to feelings of remorse over their part in this monstrous enterprise, and horror at its continuance; their erstwhile employers refused to contribute, and it's no wonder. Meanwhile, Tilikum remains in solitary confinement, a rebuke to its owners and, I'm afraid, to our hubristic belief in taming the wild.