Aug 18, 2013

Black isn't always beautiful. Blackfish Grade: B+ Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite (City Lax: An Urban Lacrosse Story) Screenplay: Cowperthwaite, Eli B. Despres (City Lax) Cast: Samantha Berg, Dave Duffus Rating: PG-13 Runtime: 83 min. by John DeSando “A whale has eaten one of the trainers.” Dispatch Recording The notorious killer whale, Tilikum, has killed 3 trainers but remains alive and incarcerated in Sea World as an object of fan fascination. The absorbing and grim doc Blackfish pretty much deflates any lingering romanticism as it presents a credible case for freeing orcas forever from the confinement of aquariums, which may cause the fish to be psychotic. Case in point: Tilikum. Blackfish doesn’t easily walk the thin line between entertainment owners making money on orcas and activists dedicated to eradicating cruelty to animals. Director/writer Gabriela Cowperthwaite keeps a consistently humane point of view with talking heads, mostly former SeaWorld trainers, clearly upset with the methods they once sanctioned and the growing awareness of the lethal danger of playing with the black beauties. Although he filmmakers unsuccessfully tried to contact SeaWorld for comment, the doc seems a bit empty without their corporate spin. Yet they do have in their corner orca expert David Duffus, who strongly claims the killers are non-lethal with “spiritual powers.” The doc’s raw footage contradicts any benign consistency in the orcas. The most Duffus can say that is true is to defend the SeaWorlds of the world as harboring “natural” killers. The history of capture-to-performance is a stunning case of fish out of water. Herding the lovely behemoths decades ago was a monstrous hunt. Killer whales are frustrated about their confinement and may eventually take it out on trainers, who, until a recent court ruling, embraced and rode the whales without apparently honoring the danger of a wild animal weighing over 6000 lbs. This grim and mesmerizing doc effectively warns all of us about the “crime” of corralling wild animals. After deaths and numerous close calls, orca trainers must now work behind fences. SeaWorld is appealing the decision. John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at Contact him at