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A documentary about a killer whale, Blackfish is a film that will truly make you think about how barbaric and inhuman humanity can be. A film that grips you despite technical limitations, it will startle and shock you while it lasts.

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Running time: 87 minutes
Categories: MAMI 2013
Genres: Documentary
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Why is it that we, supposedly the most intelligent species on the planet, fail to recognize and respect every beating heart of every single being that belongs to any one of the millions of living species that we share our world with? The perverseness of humankind, particularly with our blatant disregard for the natural world around us, is no secret.

Every once in a while, though, this lack of understanding and respect for the diverse and intriguing flora and fauna of our world can lead to horrifying and gruesome consequences, especially when what lies behind this is pure financial greed - a fact that is gut-wrenchingly exemplified in Gabriela Cowperthwaite's documentary, Blackfish.

The film narrates a series of stories surrounding a killer whale (also known as an Orca,) named Tilikum, which was responsible for the deaths of a number of experienced whale trainers. Continuously gripping, often shocking but mostly just intensely moving and horrifying - all at once, Blackfish shows you both sides of the relationship that a human and an animal can share - it can be both, fulfilling as well as grotesque.

Tautly narrated, relying primarily on archival footage and interviews of former trainers at SeaWorld a (dolphin amusement park), where Tilikum still remains, the film wastes no time in grabbing you by the gut and holding on to it right until it ends. It takes you through a range of emotions - from pure joy when you see what seems to be unadulterated love between a human being and a killer whale, to deep, dark, larger questions about whether everything that we see and feel is just a mirage.

Also, an animal lover will truly be fascinated by the tiny glimpse that the film gives you, into the fascinating species of dolphins that killer whales are. Undeniably gorgeous, they're also highly intelligent, evolved creatures that seem to be just as capable of feeling complex emotions as human beings.

The film's grainy, low resolution images almost never distract you, because the stories that it narrates and the emotions of some of interviewees are so genuine, so real, that you get taken in by it all.

When you walk away from Blackfish, then, you're left with mixed feelings. The film is terrific, yes, but it makes you wonder if human beings as a species are the worst things that could have happened to a world as unique as Earth. It is only the tears that you see - and perhaps feel somewhere deep within - that remind you that what always comes with being a human being, is hope.

This review is by guest reviewer Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at

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This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: Violent scenes involving killer whales
  • Language: None
  • Nudity & Sexual content: None
  • Concept: Documentary about a killer whale
  • General Look and Feel: Hazy, grainy, newsreel type feel

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

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Blackfish - Cast, crew, links

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Running time:
87 minutes

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