4 StarsIt’s Free Tilly argues the riveting documentary Blackfish, which chronicles the 40 year captivity of a Killer Whale named Tilikum. This specific mammal has been responsible for at least three deaths in the last twenty years. A host of Ex-Sea-World trainers and OSHA expert witnesses recount horrifying and often touching stories about captivity conditions and a lack of safety measures for trainers in the pools with these 5,000 lb. fish.
Centering on the brutal attack and mutilation of trainer Dawn Brancheau during a training session gone afoul with Tilikum, this doc points a charged finger at the moral principles and practices employed by Sea-World. By exploring the history and hardship endured by this mammal, it becomes clear that Tilly has suffered severe psychosis and is not fit to be used in public showings any longer. However as of present he can still be seen in daily shows at the Sea-World park in Florida.
Of all the senseless deaths attributed to ‘trainer error’ or ‘drowning’, Dawn Brancheau’s murder is the incident that exposes the cover-up and public relation spin put forth by the company to place fault on the employee and not the whale. This becomes a re-occurring instance anytime an attack occurs, OSHA became so tired of the lack of safety for Sea-World trainers that it sued on behalf of the federal government for unsafe working conditions. Winning a decision that called for a barrier between trainer and whale, effectively putting an end to the shows that bring in big money to the marine parks. Naturally Sea-World has appealed the verdict and continues to run these shows regularly.
Blackfish is a subjective take on the debate that rages between OSHA, PETA and Sea-World, the film’s critics would be correct in pointing out that the filmmakers have shown these brilliant mammels in the harshest light possible. There is an anger that comes across throughout the picture that suggest our parading around of these regal creatures for amusement is barbaric, and if we just left Tilikum alone in the wild at least three human beings wouldn’t have tragically lost their lives.
Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Stars: Tilikum, Dave Duffus, Samantha Berg