Documentary Review : Blackfish (2013)

By The Gorgeous Palah Chingu

My Rating: 4.5/5

Few of us knew that orcas and dolphins are among sea creatures that blessed with intelligence and aptitude almost like us, human. Orcas, often shown in National Geographic, Discovery Channel, BBC and other channels always displayed their wits either in hunting, mating, communicating or playing. There are many discoveries made by scientists confirming orca is the smart animal. The capture of orcas or known as killer whale begun in the early 1980s. Those who involved in this horrendous activity will gather their ships to trap the killer whale’s mother and her infants in the inescapable perimeter, using the specific equipment made for the activity, they took the infant from its own mother. This infant whale then will be put in the container and shipped off to the marine park.

Among those infants of killer whale that widely captured at that time, one of them is Tilikum or known dearly as Tilly. The initial part of this documentary comprised series of interviews from the person who involved in the orca captivity, the eyewitness at the marine park and the former SeaWorld (the famous marine park at U.S.) trainer. The fisherman that being interviewed expressed their regret for involved in the unspeakable act, on why he should never separate the killer whale’s mother with her infant and by doing so, he knew he’s committing crime against the nature. Then, the eyewitness told their story of seeing orcas in action in the marine park. However, there are more than seeing orcas in action. Some of them confess of witnessing odd behavior displayed by the orcas. They remember how the trainers being pulled by the orcas in the water and some of them even encounter the trainer in action being collided by the whale itself. On the other hands, the former trainers of SeaWorld spoke fondly of Tilikum or Tilly, and explained that they never predicted Tilly would snap one day.

Dawn Brancheau
Dawn Brancheau

They also talked about Dawn Brancheau. Who is Dawn Brancheau? She’s one of the victims that died because of the impulsive act exhibited by Tilly. One of the former trainers at SeaWorld said that she was shocked knowing Dawn is the victim when she first came to know of it. She said Dawn is one of the most careful and alert trainer. She always reminds her colleagues to not forget the rules and remain vigilant all the time. The question is, who should we put the blame on? The killer whale who should not be put in the marine park at all because they belong to the sea or the trainer who failed to see the consequences of working with orcas or the marine park who hide the secret that Tilly already showing the sign of being dangerous to human, especially trainers itself.

The fact that the marine park is proven for not taking a good care of their animals worrying me a lot. I love zoo and Marine Park. Malaysia may not have many of Marine Parks but if I ever had a chance to go, I would go without any hesitation. After I watched this documentary, something bothered me. I don’t know whether I wanted to go there anymore. Knowing that these animals craving for freedom and prefer their natural habitat than being confined, this notion troubled me. As for Tilly, what’s driven him being so mad and spontaneously attacked Dawn? Many trainers fail to understand  that as Dawn and Tilly are so close to each other. The former SeaWorld Trainers who ever worked with Dawn described Tilly and her are like best friend. It was obviously spur of the moment, Tilly just can’t take it anymore and decided to attack Dawn who’s unfortunately at that time is very close to Tilly. The incident ended when Tilly ripped her arm apart and causing some other fatal injuries on Dawn. Dawn died at the scene.


There are many commentaries made by the scientist who studies orcas and their behavior in this documentary. One of them told that orca has emotional complexity greater than the human. Thus, the feeling of orcas possessed maybe more heightened and intensified. This would tell us why orcas in the captivity may lose it or may act impulsively someday. They are being deprived from freedom, from natural habitat and from their own off springs. They are also sometimes are badly injured by other whales. Killer whales are proved to socialize among each other in the hierarchical order. Thus, when killer whales are being put in the same container without proper observation, some of the whales could died due to the attack. All of this could contribute to the stress and sending those captive orcas into the depression. That is what deduced by the experts in the event of recent attack made by Tilikum.

Some of the protests been held infront of the SeaWorld.
True That!!

OSHA, Occupational safety and Health administration sued Sea World and demand a court order to ensure all the trainers who worked with Orcas to remain safely behind the wall that separated them with Orcas. While SeaWorld keep their defenses that Tilly is not dangerous animal, OSHA keep fighting by revealing many hidden facts and cases by SeaWorld. Court made a decision to grant the demand made by OSHA. Since then, SeaWorld has never give up pleading to the court to remove the order. What happened to Tilly? He remains barricaded in the giant aquarium only to be display at the SeaWorld aquarium. The SeaWorld never intended to release Tilly into the open sea because they use Tilly for other profitable activity. They sold Tilly’s sperms to other Marine parks that own female’s Orcas. As this documentary released in the early of 2013, there are various movements and a group of people who did a protests and demonstrations in front of many SeaWorld parks at different states in America demanding them to release Tilikum back to the sea.


The director of Blackfish (2013) informed that SeaWorld refused to take any part in the documentary. Well, it just proved how they are guilty and responsible in series of incidents occurred upon its trainees.


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