The documentary, “BlackFish,” was directed and written by Gabriela Cowperthwaite and produced by Manny Oteyza. The film was released in the U. S. on January 19th 2013 at the Sundance Film Festival. For this documentary, they filmed at Sea World, San Diego, CA and Puget Sound, Washington. BlackFish was released on CNN on November 2nd, 2013. The documentary is also on Netflix. A majority of the documentary is interviews by ex-Orca trainers at SeaWorld, people who worked at sea world, and even people who captured baby Orca’s in the 70’s.
It was an Interactive documentary starting from the various incidents and or accidents that happened to trainers or people who got hurt by these Killer Whales. In 2014 it won the Satellite Award for Best Documentary Film, this award is given by the International Press Academy. The documentary BlackFish went through the process of the most deadly Killer Whale Tillikum and how it got to the water park SeaWorld. This Killer whale Tillikum was taken away from its mother and ocean at age 2, and at the time was 13 feet, which was far larger than any other Killer Whale at that age.
Everyone at the park knew this whale was a special talent. When help captive in numerous parks there would be two dominant female orcas that would attack him viciously. On top of that he would perform eight times a day, seven days a week. All this stress caused him to get stomach ulcers. The trainers really cared about this whale, it was always eager to perform, and had a great time performing. However, the real reason Tillikum was so famous was because of the killing of Sea World Trainer Dawn Branchea (Kuo, 2013). The documentary focused on 4 of the ex trainers that worked at the marine parks for the interviews.
These trainers were John Hargrove, Samantha Berg, Mark Simmons, and Kim Ashdown. All of them said that information about previous so-called “accidents” or incidents caused by the whales to trainers was hid from them. And anytime that an accident occurred it was always “trainer error”. These trainers all said they loved their job and knew Sea World was bullying them and treating these very intelligent mammals awful. Trainers continued to talk about how it was so hard for them to leave because they all really did care for the animals, and didn’t want to know what would happen to these Orca’s when they left; especially Tillikum.
The videos throughout the documentary were mostly performances, capturing of the whales in Washington, videos of various violent attacks from whales to the trainers. The audience could be a variety of people, starting with people who plan to go to Sea World, fish lovers, and or anyone who wants to know more about Killer Whales and how they are treated in captivity. This is the case because it really goes behind the scenes and talks with people who experienced and worked with these whales everyday. I learned a lot about sea world, and how they take care of the orcas in a very poor manner.
I learned a lot about why these Killer Whales would perform such violent actions towards their feeders. Thus starting from all oceans to having maybe 100 sq. feet to swim around all day. I also learned that these whales have a very developed and intelligent brain. It is pretty crazy to think about being taken away from your mother at a young age and being held captive for the rest of your life. Not only that but using rare genes from Tillikum to breed more whales. Which is pretty scary because somewhere in Tillikums genes it has shown signs of aggression.
A surprising fact is that 54 % of the killer whales in Marine Parks have part of Tillikums genes. Tillikum has killed 3 people throughout his time at Sea World. Producer Gabriella Cowperthwaite said she was interested in the project after she found out about the death of Dawn Brancheau, who was a very experienced and out going trainer. Cowperthwaite went on to say, “I was very confused by that story, and because I didn’t understand why a killer whale that was very highly intelligent animal would have made a decision to kill a trainer that was actively feeding it. ” (Hare, 2013)