If you don’t like badass documentaries about killer whales wrecking shit and eating people, then definitely don’t watch Blackfish tonight on CNN at 9pm. I reviewed this film back in July, and it would probably be the best documentary of the year if Act of Killing hadn’t come out (that’s not a knock on Blackfish, Act of Killing is just a once-in-a-lifetime kind of movie).
Blackfish presents a pretty negative picture of SeaWorld, so Sea World released a statement while declining any on-camera interviews, which is the go-to strategy of totally-not-guilty people everywhere. Ooh, can you have a terse man in a suit direct me to an obscure study? That approach always works.
Blackfish is billed as a documentary, but instead of a fair and balanced treatment of a complex subject, the film is inaccurate and misleading and, regrettably, exploits a tragedy that remains a source of deep pain for Dawn Brancheau’s family, friends and colleagues. To promote its bias that killer whales should not be maintained in a zoological setting, the film paints a distorted picture that withholds from viewers key facts about SeaWorld — among them, that SeaWorld is one of the world’s most respected zoological institutions, that SeaWorld rescues, rehabilitates and returns to the wild hundreds of wild animals every year, and that SeaWorld commits millions of dollars annually to conservation and scientific research. Perhaps most important, the film fails to mention SeaWorld’s commitment to the safety of its team members and guests and to the care and welfare of its animals, as demonstrated by the company’s continual refinement and improvement to its killer whale facilities, equipment and procedures both before and after the death of Dawn Brancheau.”
“The film is inaccurate, distorted, and misleading, in that it’s totally accurate about what it’s actually about, but it doesn’t say anything about all the good stuff we do too!”
Ah yes, spoken like a serial killer who wants you to know he was nice to his dogs.
There’s an argument to be made that by letting people have a personal interaction with killer whales, Sea World does enough to stoke public sentiment towards conservation that it justifies the shittiness of captivity, but Sea World seems too dumb or too stubborn to actually make it. Which doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in them as an organization. Watch it for yourself, but the best thing about Blackfish is that there’s a sense of discovery to it, where it pretty clearly wasn’t made by a person who went into it as an activist. Sea World’s response has been wildly unpersuasive so far (see here), especially in the face of simple facts like “that whale who killed three people still performs.”