Film Forum: Blackfish

Posted by Julia Mahony

Shamu, the star of SeaWorld, is an animal beloved  by all. An orca these colossal creatures regularly put on spectacular shows, entertaining hundreds of people. However, the  friendly story of Shamu is now a thing of the past. Gabriela Cowperthwaite's documentary, "Blackfish" tells the story of Tilikum, a 12,000 pound orca that infamously attacked and killed the head trainer at Orlando Florida's SeaWorld in 2010 and was implicated in two previous deaths.

SeaWorld's concern with maintaining its public image is evident in terms of who was willing to speak in the film. Witnesses to Tilikum's attacks and trainers appear on camera, while park executives refrained from on-camera interviews. Cowperthwaite makes it crystal clear that attacking humans is not a natural inclination of orcas, but that their secluded environment potentially leads to a kind of psychosis. In fact, there has never been a recorded incident an orca assault on a human in the wild. The whales are described by researches as very social, caring creatures, with thousands of miles of ocean as their usual stomping ground. Being confined nightly to dark and gloomy concrete pens is most likely the cause for Tilikum's destructive behavior. The CNN anchor Jane Velez-Mitchell poses the following question, "If you were in a bathtub for 25 years, don't you think you'd get a little psychotic?"

This documentary should appeal to students interested in biology, neuroscience, oceanography, and anyone who cares about the way humans treat the Earth and her animals. Many whales have accidentally hurt themselves in attempts to escape from their enclosures. One neuroscientist in the film avers that their brains may be even more advanced than ours. As a trainers says, "When you look into their eyes, you know somebody is home." 

"Blackfish" is playing at the Film Forum at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 21st and Friday, November 22nd, as well as at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 24th . At 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 23rd,the Film Forum is having a Meet the Artist event for Kyle DeCamp's latest multimedia piece, "Urban Renewal", which encompasses live performance, slide projection and mesmerizing sound.

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