BLACKFISH (2013) – Review

When you look into their eyes, somebody’s home. Somebody’s looking back at you–but it may not be what you think.


Gabriela Cowperthwaite‘s BLACKFISH (2013) is an eye-opening documentary on the killer whales in captivity in Sea World and other theme water parks around the world. The information presented in the film is poignant and shows what animals in captivity experience. Footage accompanies testimony from numerous former animal trainers for Sea World about the things they’ve seen and heard, and distinctly pertaining to the orca Tilikum who has claimed the lives of several people at the different parks he held captive. BLACKFISH offers viewers much to ponder–not only in terms of business practices and human interactions with these marine animals, but the often complicated, and often misunderstood sensitivity of inter-species relationships.

Killer whales possess the nature to kill, and nature to love. When taken from their original families in the wild, it affects the animals psychologically. The infamous story of Tilikum, the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, and the current legal issues Sea World is facing sheds light on capturing orca to be placed into water theme parks, the ethics of keeping these animals in captivity, and the dual nature of these creatures. Incidents spanning 30-years and presented in an objective manner allows audiences to come to their own conclusions about the issue.

The compassion audiences will have for the orca will continue to increase as the documentary rolls on. Numerous of former employees, orca researchers, and even a hunter tell of their experiences encountering these unique animals. Seeing these animals at the parks and seeing what goes on behind the scenes is as different as night and day. Misinformation about the creatures and unprofessional conditions contribute to already stressed and hostile beings going over the edge and harming employees and civilians. It is often difficult to take into account the many incidents surrounding killer whales in captivity. What more, the enormous effort on behalf of Sea World’s management to keep these frequencies from the public.

Footage of unfortunate accidents and frightening events are depicted throughout the documentary, and it certainly does make for a strong case against allowing trainers to interact with the animals, and possibly an even stronger case against having orca in captivity at all.

I highly recommend this captivating and informative documentary.

Never capture what you can’t control.

Magnolia Picture’s BLACKFISH (2013) Special Features include:


•  A note from director Gabriela Cowperthwaite
•  Kanduke
•  “Death by Mosquito” in Marine Parks
•  Orca Teeth Show the Stress of Orcas in Captivity
•  Recollections of a Former SeaWorld Trainer
•  The Truth About Wild Whales
•  Alternatives to Captivity
•  Director and Producer Commentary

Cowperthwaite’s commentary offers audiences her view on why the documentary BLACKFISH was made. She wants to inform the public without pressuring the audience into accepting a certain viewpoint. In addition, Cowperthwaithe speaks about SeaWorld‘s response to her film, and more on how viewers could get involved in protecting marine life. KANDUKE is the name of a SeaWorld whale that former trainer Dean Gomersall seen die gruesomely in front of his eyes from a mosquito bite. Death by Mosquito shows how a few orcas have died from mosquito born illnesses and how being in captivity makes them susceptible to dying much younger than they do in the wild. The Orca Teeth featurette shows what happens to the teeth of orcas in captivity and how SeaWorld employees cut the teeth of these animals. John Hargrove tells of scary experiences he had at SeaWorld with killer whales in the Recollections featurette and why he decided to retire from the company. The Truth About Wild Whales is a short expose with Dr. Naomi Rose on the difference between the behaviors of wild orcas and ones in captivity, how abnormal breeding procedures cause the captive orcas to die early, and how orcas could be properly cared for in other ways. Alternatives to Captivity features Dr. Rose speaking on Morgan, another whale held in captivity in the Netherlands when she should have been released into the wild after she was nursed back to health by the facility caring for her.

Art and supplementary material courtesy ©2013 of Magnolia Pictures Home Entertainment. All rights reserved.

  • Editor Rating

  • Rated 5 stars
  • Spectacular

  • Reviewed by:
  • Published on:
  • Last modified: 2013-11-14

Review Summary:

Notorious killer whale Tilikum is responsible for the deaths of three individuals, including a top killer whale trainer.

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