Blackfish

CNN Films has released a new full-length trailer for the documentary Blackfish, the Sundance-debuting film about killer whales in captivity and their propensity for living up to their namesake. The haunting footage seems to revolve mostly around one whale, Tilikum, responsible for the very public and very horrifying death of a Sea World trainer in 2010. Are these animals truly killers, or did we make them into killers when we stuck them inside a tank and made them perform for Big Gulp-slurping crowds? That seems to be the essential question at the heart of Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s unsettling documentary.

Watch the trailer for Blackfish:

Reviewing at this year’s Sundance Film Festival where the film debuted, our own Rob Hunter admitted that while Blackfish doesn’t present much in the way of new information, it’s still an important and unnerving story to tell. It’s also a little one-sided about its agenda (it doesn’t seem to support having animals in captivity), which could rub some audiences the wrong way. Then again, many a compelling documentary has been made with an agenda. We all remember the nauseating effects of Louie Psihoyos’ 2009 dolphin slaughter doc The Cove. Blackfish appears to want to continue scaring us straight on animal cruelty.

Blackfish opens in limited release July 19. Here’s the official synopsis:

Many of us have experienced the excitement and awe of watching 8,000 pound orcas, or “killer whales,” soar out of the water and fly through the air at sea parks, as if in perfect harmony with their trainers. Yet, in our contemporary lore this mighty black and white mammal is like a two-faced Janus—beloved as a majestic, friendly giant yet infamous for its capacity to kill viciously. Blackfish unravels the complexities of this dichotomy, employing the story of notorious performing whale Tilikum, who—unlike any orca in the wild—has taken the lives of several people while in captivity. So what exactly went wrong?

Shocking, never before seen footage and riveting interviews with trainers and experts manifest the orca’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity over the last four decades and the growing disillusionment of workers who were misled and endangered by the highly profitable sea-park industry. This emotionally wrenching, tautly structured story challenges us to consider our relationship to nature and reveals how little we humans have learned from these highly intelligent and enormously sentient fellow mammals.


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