When I was in second grade, I went as an orca for Halloween. My mom had taken a costume pattern for a character from the TV show “Street Sharks” and swapped out the colors for black and white; all day and night I was all too happy to explain to onlookers that I was no mere shark, I was an orca (short for Orcinus orca), or killer whale (though technically a member of the dolphin family), which was naturally much cooler. The day was spent in bliss–I might have worn that orca suit every day if such a thing were socially feasible. I was the classroom’s Token Favorite Animal Kid.
The point is, I loved orcas then, and I still do today, which is why I predicted going into the Film Festival’s opening-night screening of Blackfish that the film would be right up my alley, and that it would make me feel terrible. Both came true within minutes.
It has to be said that Blackfish is an incredibly powerful, well-executed work. The documentary probes into the unseen world within SeaWorld and similarly ocean-themed parks–specifically, it examines, through honest interviews and old-fashioned journalism, the ill treatment of the park’s orcas and the tragic consequences of such. Serious animal lovers and ordinary folk alike will have plenty of opportunities to shed tears and feel righteously outraged, both of which are good qualities considering the film’s aim.
The documentary could be described as a call to action, or perhaps simply a means of raising awareness, and it is perfectly effective in that capacity. Still, the content lends itself to an overwhelming sense of bleakness. Watching the film’s most heart-wrenching moments (of which there were several), I couldn’t help but wonder what I, or any individual in the audience, could do to make a difference. “[Humans] haven’t learned a thing – not a damn thing,” laments one interviewee, a marine biologist. “Hopefully, in 50 years, people will look back and think, ‘what a cruel, barbaric thing we did,” speculates another. I do believe the film does an excellent job of conveying its emotions to the audience, but I’m uncertain about what kind of real-world impact it might have should it receive a wide-spread public release. In any case, I wish the makers of Blackfish the best of luck, and hope to hear more about the film in the months following the Festival.