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‘Blackfish’: A Wail of a Film (to Save the Whales) | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Media, politics and culture.

‘Blackfish’: A Wail of a Film (to Save the Whales)

Orcas in a Seaworld show

Orcas pause during a Seaworld show. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Leon7. CC 3.0.)

It’s been another great year for hard-hitting or wonderfully creative documentary films, from Sarah Polley on her family to Jeremy Scahill on targeted killing abroad (and need I mention my own on Beethoven’s Ninth?).

Last night I watched another film on the just-announced shortlist of finalists for this year’s Academy Award for the genre: Blackfish.

As you may have heard, it takes a deep (so to speak) look at the practice, over the past four decades, of capturing orcas in the wild and hauling them to the Sea Worlds of the world. The film raises alarms not just about these magnificent creatures but the danger to trainers and performers at the water expos. We see shocking footage of numerous deaths or near-death experiences of humans leading to a current legal action that has, for now, curtailed the man-to-whale contact in the shows.

But at the heart of it, and I do mean heart, is the foul practice of capturing the orcas at sea and breaking up their families (among the tightest in creation). Who knew that, like Indian tribes of yore, each grouping of orcas has their own “language”? That they can live for 100 years? That the mothers and kids stay together their entire lives (yes, as often the case, the dads are around but not central). And so on.

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You may shake with anger and sadness on viewing this film, or at least give your cat or dog an extra hug.

Here’s the trailer:

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