The Deal With Documentaries: ‘Blackfish’ is still important

_Blackfish_ breeched barriers of documentaries to enact real-world change and update a once “dead” section of film.

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Documentaries are a hidden gem of the media-driven world we live in. Not many people watch them, and those who do know of their greatness become addicted.

Documentaries carry a connotation of long, grueling, monotone cinematography and narration that could put a Red-Bull-fueled toddler to sleep.

The truth is that they are interesting and educate while enacting emotion and concern that typical forms of media, whether it be long Facebook posts or commercials set to a ballad of the ’90s, cannot.

Documentary of the week: Blackfish

Blackfish is probably, in recent years, the most recognizable and universal documentary. Blackfish explores the truth behind Sea World and all similar affiliates. Through the film, we learn that for years there has been a systematic capture and mistreatment of orca whales within the walls of Sea World. Through interviews and home videos, the viewers witness first-hand the toll mistreatment has had on these “killer” whales.

Interviews from a former fisherman reveal that Sea World would conduct mass orca hunts. They would have air support telling a boat where a herd of orcas was heading and would aim to separate the calves from their others. The audience watches as mother orcas cry for their children. This is a glimpse into the deep, emotional, understanding side of orcas that we don’t always see.

As the orca program at Sea World grew, incidents of irregular behavior rose as well. In nature, killer whales are not actually killers. There has not been one incident of killer whale aggression in the wild, yet in captivity orcas have attacked trainers and bystanders consistently.

From dragging trainers below the water for minutes at a time to reaching out of the water and severing a trainer's leg, orcas in captivity are acting out of their natural behavior assumingly due to the stress and unnatural state of their captivity.

In recent response to Blackfish, Sea World has made drastic changes to their operations. They have announced the end of orca capture and breeding and transformed their famed killer whale shows into more educational performances, removing all tricks that involve contact between trainers and orcas.

A lawsuit deemed that allowing trainers to swim and ride the orcas was unsafe and against working conditions. In response, Sea World has now ceased all trainer-orca contact. The shows are conducted from behind a protective glass barrier.

Why would I recommend this documentary? It is a gateway film. Blackfish is all of the best parts of documentaries in one flawless compilation. Solid interviews and supportive research promotes Blackfish to the top of my list of beginner documentaries.

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