A mesmerizing psychological thriller with a killer whale at its centre, Blackfish is the first film since Grizzly Man to show how nature can get revenge on man when pushed to its limits.

I have been watching a lot of intense movies and documentaries lately. Blackfish was one of them. These serious and intense films and documentaries will remind you how fragile and cruel we are as human beings

The line that really struck me was from, a former trainer, John Jettwho said he doesn’t want his 3-year-old daughter to think it’s normal to see an orca in a large concrete tank and it is indeed wrong to think so.

What he said reminded me of my childhood visits to the zoo. I guess I was one of the many who thought that zoos were the home of animals.

What a horrible thought!

Tourists get the joy of seeing animals. Rarely did they think where on earth these animals come from. These lively animals aren’t toys that are manufactured on a assembly line, put in a nice package and stored on the shelves for sale. They are captured from the wild. They are taken away from their family and home.

Tilikum, Blackfish’s protagonist and trigger to Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite to investigate and film, was captured on the east coast of Iceland in November 1983 when it was about 3 years-old. He’s the biggest killer whale in captivity. Ten million tourists are reported to visit Sea World for him and his peers’ residence at the Sea World parks. One year after the third death incident Tilikum was associated, he returned to his “performing career” in March 2011. But this time, trainers are training and giving orders to orcas from the ground instead of being in the water with them, following restrictions required by regulations after the previous tragedies and accidents.

Killer whales are not whales, but dolphins. They are highly intelligent, social and emotional, just like human beings. Killer whales have the second largest brains among all animals but sperm whales. We often talk about how smart dolphins are. So are killer whales. They have their own languages as well. The film also talked about how Tilikum didn’t get along with other whales because they come from different whale communities and speak different languages. They simply couldn’t communicate. Their own languages allow them to form their peer and social group, live together and collaborate to hunt. Just like us, we have our friends whom we eat with, work with and fall in love with as well. Thirty years ago, we abducted Tilikum from his mother. Since then, he’s been living in a bathtub and put on performance to please audience. That’s like when your child is kidnapped and was sold to an circus corporation for life. Killer whales, Tilikum, and other animals are lives no different than human beings. They don’t deserve to be captivated. Just because they couldn’t fight back, doesn’t mean that they agree to be captivated.

The fact that orcas are so intelligent and social, even self-conscious makes captivity worse and tragic for them. Tilikum was aware that he was taken away from his mother and family. His mother at the same times knew she wouldn’t see her son any more. It was a difficult scene to watch.

If the door to ocean was open, do you think Tilikum and other marine lives would choose to stay in the concrete tank and not swim out?

When you read Tilikum’s story as a whale, as an animal, you may not feel so bad because we have seen all sorts of crazy things we do to animals all the time. But once in a while, we find out those shockingly brutal kidnaping, abusing and murdering cases. We all share grief on the victims. Like the earlier case in Ohio, three young girls were kept hidden in the house for nine years, abused and raped. We blamed the Castro brothers for abusing and raping the girls. The justice jailed and penalize them. We put them in court and question their conscience for committing such an immoral crime on other humans. But the fact is that we are captivating so many animals in so many zoos and aquariums around the globe. Some people even make money out of rare animals by illegal trades. What a shame! 

Yet, Sea World has declined repeated interview requests by the film makers.

Hereby, I will avoid zoos and aquariums. They are prisons of animals, not home.

CNN aired Blackfish on October 24, 2013, which caused a heated discussion on captivity and whether parents should take children to Sea World.

A list of recommending films/movies/documentaries for you:
(The following items may be slightly intense. Be aware)

Grizzly Man

The Cove

Everything is Illuminated

Shutter Island

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Django Unchained


Man on Wire (Also see my earlier blog on this documentary)

Yet, until next time, happy blogging, happy sharing. 

4 thoughts on “Blackfish: Aquarium’s immoral captivity

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