Buzz continues to grow around the documentary, Blackfish, since its release in July of 2013 yet, I’ve avoided the movie. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I’ve always feared opened water. The unknown beneath your feet, beneath the boat. That water is like a great height. One misstep and you could plunge to your death.

Enough about me. Back to the movie.


Blackfish profiles an orca named Tilikum from his capture in 1983 off the coast of Nova Scotia to his 2010 killing Sea World trainer, Dawn Brancheau. The movie is as much about how inhumane the confinement of killer whales is as it is about orca research. That’s really what makes this movie watchable. You know you’re going to be horrified but you may not expect to learn anything.

One of the most heartbreaking revelations of the movie is why, in the moment, Tilikum decided to kill two of his handlers. The question isn’t explicitly addressed but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. He pulled each of the trainers under at the end of a show. Each trainer died right before Tilikum was scheduled to go back into a tank with the female whales who abused him, who raked him with their teeth. The one joy in this giant animal’s life seemed to be spending time with humans and he didn’t want it to end.

Jesus that’s depressing. I think I just talked myself out of watching it.