Hello everyone, and welcome to 111 Archer Avenue. What started as a film review blog has become my online judgment forum. I will review the occasional movie or DVD, post an interesting trailer, critique a newly-read book, talk about sports, and share my thoughts and opinions on random issues. You can also follow me on Twitter (@OlieCoen) or check out my work on DVDTalk.com. Thank you and enjoy!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Movie Review - Blackfish

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Starring: Tilikum
Year: 2013

Talk about a splash (no pun intended).  This movie caused waves (OK I'm done) as soon as it hit the film festival circuit, quickly becoming a must-see.  Not that it's an amazingly unique film; it's a documentary about animal cruelty in essence.  But the subject matter is extremely powerful and can't be ignored.  It's an expose on SeaWorld, on the way our country treats animals, on the ignorance of humans, on the secrets & coverups of big business, on the avoidable deaths of many people.  It's a lot to handle in ninety minutes, and after watching it you can see why so many people had such an intense reaction to it.  Boycotts, cancellations, backlash, new laws; the amusement park world will never be the same thanks in part to this film.

This powerful documentary is told mostly from the point of view of several ex-SeaWorld trainers, all who have first-hand knowledge of the way that company operates, how their attractions are obtained, and the way in which their animals are treated.  From their capture in the wild to their shipment from park to park, these beautiful & famous orcas are used to make millions of dollars, all while their own lives are both short & stagnant.  And the humans who handle them are equally used as tools, putting their lives at risk with very little real knowledge of the situation and with an extremely high amount of danger.  The film documents the business of killer whales, how their treatment leads to an altered psyche, the nature of their attacks upon their caregivers, and how all of this information is being swept under the rug in order to continue the profit one company brings in from the cruel use of these fascinating creatures.

Blackfish is a hard movie to watch.  The content of the film is both brutal and sad, from the treatment of the animals to their attacks on humans, often caught vividly on tape and shown to us without a softening filter.  But the film goes beyond just trying to shut down SeaWorld because the orcas pens are small.  It attempts to individualize these animals in some way, to show that they have an extremely high intelligence, that they feel emotion, that they bond with their families, and that it is inherently immoral to capture, keep, and show them in a setting that is in no way conservational.  The film exposes the way in which SeaWorld trivializes accidents, blames trainers, and makes no connection between the extreme trauma of the orcas and their aggressive behavior toward those who love them.  This is a documentary that had an immediate impact upon release, that breached a wall around a secret subject, and one that everyone ought to see.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰


  1. Good review Olie. It can be very hard to watch, but I think that's the purpose of this documentary, in order to make us feel even more sorry for Tilikum and every other Orca who has ever been taken into SeaWorld, whether they like it or not. Some real, real sad stuff.