Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Producer: Manny Oteyza
There is something heartbreaking about seeing a grown man cry…
I think it validates the despair of a situation more so than if you were to see a teenage girl cry about the same thing. In Blackfish, a documentary by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, you see many grown men cry. The motivating incident that led to the making of this documentary is the death of a Seaworld trainer in Orlando Florida in 2010. Unsure that this incident was the fault of the trainer, Gabriela sought to see if she could discover the truth. And she did.
It’s funny how magical things can be when you’re a child. And when you grow up, these magical things become real, and sometimes reality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I remember going to Seaworld as a child and becoming mesmerized by the whale and dolphin shows. I wanted to be the trainers who got to swim with the whales and feed them fish. After the first Seaworld visit with my family, at the age of six, I remember telling my dad that I was going to be a marine biologist. That determination stuck with me all the way through university. But along the way I realized two things. First, you didn’t need a degree to be a whale trainer and second, holding these animals in captivity is the farthest thing from respecting and nurturing nature. And the Seaworld that seemed so magical when I was younger? Is just another big corporation out for profits.
Watching the first part of the documentary, I realized my story was pretty common. The former Seaworld whale trainers all started because they too went to Seaworld and saw the magic in training whales and dolphins. However, not many of them recognized the cruelty in keeping these beloved animals in captivity. They were told that what they were doing was a good for the animals and these whales were better off in captivity than in the wild. The various “facts” they were told were lies to assure their employees did not question otherwise.
This documentary follows the story of Tilikum, the whale who has killed and injured many people. It starts at the beginning, when he was captured and taken away from his pod. One of the fishermen who was involved in this event realized half way through the capture that something was wrong. It wasn’t like any other fishing or hunting trip. When he saw the rest of Tilikum’s pod swimming around the boat, crying out, he realized that he was kidnapping a baby from its’ mother…and in his words, “one of the worst things I ever did.”
From then, Tilikum’s story continues down a tragic path. From abuse of other whales in captivity to being locked in a box day in and day out, this beautiful whale has turned into a monster for many trainers. Unfortunately, Seaworld values the profits Tilikum brings over the lives of their trainers. It’s not the shows that bring in the profits, it’s Tilikum’s baby making abilities. He’s valuable as long as he can procreate.
There is something seriously wrong with the world when we can’t even recognize the damage we are causing in exchange for fun and entertainment.
A petition is going around to save Tilikum. If you have a few minutes, please sign it!
For more information on the film and where you can catch it, please click here.