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Laramie Movie Scope: Blackfish

The dark side of Sea World

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 7, 2013 -- This is a very powerful documentary about the dangers of working at entertainment parks like Sea World, and about the mistreatment of killer whales at those same parks. If you see this, you won't want to ever visit one of these parks again, or work at these parks, either.

Like last year's documentary, “The Cove,” this film depicts man's mistreatment of intelligent marine animals for his own amusement, and for profit. It also shows that when safety and moral behavior get in the way of corporate profits, then profits rule. You want to know what is wrong with unregulated capitalism? It's that the pursuit of profits often leads to immoral behavior by corporations. At least in a family-owned business, there can be some overriding moral guidance from the family, but corporations don't usually operate with those kinds of moral restraints. That's why there are worker safety laws, child labor laws, environmental laws, food safety laws, etc.

This documentary reveals the dangers to people who train killer whales. It documents how even experienced, skilled whale trainers have been killed by whales that they had known well for years. One particular whale at Sea World, Tilikum, is a particular focus of the film. Tilikum has been associated with the death of three people, two of them trainers. The documentary also focuses on hearings by the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration into the safety of people being in the water with killer whales during entertainment shows.

If you see this film, you'll understand why OSHA ruled that putting employees in the water with killer whales is an unsafe working environment. In this case, worker safety came first, but it doesn't always work that way, particularly when corporations are able to influence governments to reduce worker and public protections. According to the film, killer whales are not dangerous to people in the wild, but they can be deadly when held in captivity. The film documents several instances of killer whale calves being separated from their mothers and the emotional distress this causes to the whales. Keeping killer whales in small enclosures also is blamed for aggressive behavior in whales.

Time and again, corporate spokesmen and sea park employees are caught telling lies and half-truths in this film. At the end, they are left with zero credibility. In addition to the usual experts, several former sea park employees are interviewed for this film. Two guests who witnessed the death of a trainer also tell their story. Incredibly, they were never asked by police to give a statement about what they saw. That killing, by Tilikum, was covered up and kept secret from employees when Tilikum was bought by Sea World and moved to a new water park, where he killed again.

The testimony of these people is heartbreaking, emotional, powerful. This is a top-flight documentary film. It rates an A.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2013 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)