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On February 24, 2010, a terrible event happened in the famous Sea World water amusement park in Orlando. A male orca, Tilikum, mutilated and killed an experienced trainer, Dawn Brancheau. From this incident begins the documentary thriller Blackfish, a rigorous study of the psychology of highly organized creatures and one of the most bitter films about the enslavement of animals by humans. But at the same time, this is a very powerful argument against the new crazy fashion, the construction of dolphinariums. After all, this is not just a vicious and disgusting business turned into a show, but in its essence, the construction of legal prisons for animals. Aspiring director Gabriela Cowperthwaite skillfully and with undisguised pain in her heart tells a story whose relevance will increase as humanity begins to realize the perniciousness of the exploitation of its fellows.

Analysis and Real-Life Facts

The film talks about the difficult fate of a killer whale named Tilikum. And here we must pay tribute to the director, the facts from the life of this animal are presented very well. Tilikum was taken from its natural habitat, taken from its mother. And then the old sea wolf, who has seen a lot in his life, argues that the cry of the mother of Tilikum, when they took away this cub, was one of the worst memories in his life. As well as the fact that an animal can take revenge for being kept in a small pool, for an insufficient amount of fish, for everyday exploitation. Because of this, the girls died, just cogs in the huge money-printing machine 'SeaWorld' (Cowperthwaite). Dawn died in 2010, and now Daniel is in her place, and it will continue to do so.
An amazing work by a documentary filmmaker, it is impossible to tear oneself away from the film and it is absolutely impossible not to sympathize. But there are positive developments: after the release of the film, the image of the park in the cartoon 'Finding Dora' was changed in order not to create unnecessary advertising for SeaWorld. Also scenes with the park were cut from 'Paper Towns' based on Greene's novel. And, most importantly, in March 2016 SeaWorld announced the decision to gradually withdraw from performances with killer whales (Cowperthwaite). This part of the film is a sort of turning point as Cowperthwaite’s major idea lies behind the issue of killer whales’ wellbeing in captivity. Essentially, the main thesis of the film is that the orca are highly vulnerable psychologically, and keeping them in dolphinariums or even zoos might lead to tragic consequences for both the animals and people caring for them.
The film clashes between commercials for SeaWorld, disguising forced labor of animals as Disneyland, and amateur recordings of emergency situations that have never hit the media before, the film rewinds time back to 1970, when a large-scale hunt for killer whales began in order to further operation in water amusement parks. The chronicle footage of killer whale hunting is, in fact, a real genocide when a person interferes with well-established social ties, which are much stronger in these animals than in people. It turns out that they are so attached to their cubs that under natural conditions, killer whale babies never leave their mother, despite the fact that some females can live in the wild for up to 100 years (Cowperthwaite). This leads to a rather strong assumption that the orca might experience serious stress and psychological trauma, which makes their behavior unpredictable further in life.
Today, humanity is still at a low stage of development in order to fully understand the essence of the problem that rises in this picture. Intelligible in its clarity, the image of the drooping dorsal fin of Tilikum is not just some kind of marker that reflects the physical distress from being in captivity, but also the strongest emotional symbol of slavery and subordination of one living being to another, who once imagined himself the master of nature (Cowperthwaite). This film shows that animals, killer whales in particular, also have a soul and feelings, they can also suffer from loneliness and rage from unbearable grief.


When, under the guise of creating unusual entertainment, exploitation and, in fact, enslavement of innocent animals are demonstrated, which would never voluntarily agree to participate in a show to please human vanity. Therefore, Blackfin is the cinema of the future. In the sense that people who have not accepted slavery among their own kind for a long time, stubbornly refuse to consider the enslavement of other living beings as such, which continues to be cultivated around the world, starting with zoos, circuses, dolphinariums and ending with scientific laboratories, where experiments are made on our smaller brothers, again “for the benefit of man.”

Works Cited

Cowperthwaite, Gabriela. Blackfish. Magnolia Pictures, 2013.

May 12, 2022




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