Any film or documentary that deals with injustice and torture against humans and/or animals is bound to get noticed. It will automatically appeal to the hearts of the audience and serve its purpose in making them think, if not decide, on the content that it presents.
Blackfish is a brilliantly made documentary that looks at the lives of killer whales that are captured to be “used” at various water theme parks across the world. The film primarily follows one of these whales, Tilikum, who has been held responsible for the killing of three trainers leading to controversy on a number of issues; from safety of the trainers to the conditions in which the whales are kept to the basic question of if it is even right to capture these wild beings.
The documentary works on two completely different levels. As purely a film, it is well researched and educates the audience about the origins of the entire activity of capturing the whales to bringing them into the water parks and follows it with a timeline of how things have progressed in this department over the years. It categorically presents all the important events that have happened in the last few decades with regards to the whales be it the “killings” or the various court cases, all from the point of view of the ex-trainers who have at one time or another worked with these whales. As a result the audience gets a somewhat well-rounded in-depth approach on the entire episode right up to the present day changes in laws that have been a direct result of all the bad happenings over the years.
On a completely different, more humanistic level, the documentary is a debate between what is right or wrong. I personally felt conflicted about the entire film when it came to analyzing the content. Undoubtedly hard to watch because of the torture on the whales (their living conditions, the miscellaneous bleeding cuts they sustain from each other etc.), the documentary presents itself with a one-sided viewpoint. While the management at the parks mentioned in the film denied to put forth their case, still we only mostly hear from people who at one time worked in these very parks and their whole theory about being clueless of the said conditions of the whales at the time they worked at these theme parks seems a bit far-fetched. Another aspect that bothered me a little was that the entire uproar about the condition of the whales came to limelight only when humans were injured, and thus in the background there is always more of a focus on the human danger than on the basic debate of whether the whales should be used in these water parks or not. This further raises the question of all animals being held captive in any form, especially in the numerous zoos across the world and if that too should be allowed or not?
This is where I still stand when it comes to Blackfish. On the one hand there is no denying that it is an important film because it shines an important light on what is happening behind the “entertainment industry” of water parks, but simultaneously it should have presented both sides of the debate equally with equal gusto. Lastly, what the film should truly make the audience realize is that we all need to look at the very basic idea of whether keeping animals in cages for whatever be the reasons, entertaining or education, is acceptable or not, and that for me is what should have been the main message of the film.
Rating - 4.5/5