The Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove” told the story of the dolphin hunt in the Japanese town of Taiji. Dolphins there are driven into a shallow cove and killed for meat and other products, with a select few set aside alive for sale to dolphinariums. Many are now saying that this year’s documentary on killer whales (Orcinus orca) in captivity, “Blackfish,” will be nominated for next year’s Oscar. Documentaries rarely get many viewers in movie theaters, but Blackfish, which cost only $76,000 to make and was initially released at only five movie theaters, has already grossed about $2 million nationwide and has been ranked among the 10 best performing nature documentaries, which include “March of the Penguins” and the much vaunted IMAX-friendly “Earth” and “Oceans” documentaries.
Blackfish focuses on the four people who have been killed by captive killer whales, bad corporate behavior by marine theme parks (especially SeaWorld) and the ethics of keeping killer whales in captivity. The film focuses particularly on the story of Tilikum, a 12,000lb male killer whale who was captured from Iceland in the early 1980s, has been living at SeaWorld of Florida since 1992, and to date has been involved in the deaths of three people. His last victim, his trainer of six years Dawn Brancheau, was brutally dismembered after he pulled her into the tank with him on February 24, 2010.
The “stars” of the film are people who have worked for marine theme parks, either as trainers or as “collectors” who captured killer whales from the wild. An interview with one of the latter is especially moving, as he testifies about accidentally killing several juveniles during a capture operation in Washington State; the distressed behavior these animals exhibited during the captures; trying to hide the bodies by sinking them with stones; and the guilt he still feels decades later. Many of the assertions of the film are supported by interviews with those involved, video footage, or reference to autopsy reports and court testimony.
Several whale and dolphin biologists are also interviewed. They provide information about killer whales in the wild, to allow the audience to contrast the situation described by former trainers who worked only with whales in captivity. We note that some of the information in these segments is a bit overstated. For example, one expert states that no orca has ever attacked a person in the wild. In fact there have been at least three attacks reported (in the entire course of history!), although none of them resulted in serious injury or death. The whales broke off their attacks, presumably when they realized the people they were targeting weren’t appropriate prey. So while it is a key point that killer whales only kill people in captivity, wild whales are not entirely benign.
|Scooped by Escape Artist Graphix Rayne|