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Reel Time
Blackfish
July 2013
Photo courtesy of Henry Holt
Photo Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures Blackfish
Tilikum, a longtime star of SeaWorld, is an orca that was captured near Iceland in 1983 at about 3 years of age. During these 30 years in captivity, Tilikum has killed three people and seriously injured another.

Blackfish is a documentary by director Gabriela Cowperthwaite that traces the origins and development of Tilikum’s aggressive behavior and asks probing questions about the morality of capturing and keeping wild animals for entertainment and profit.

Through interviews with former SeaWorld trainers and witnesses of those tragic events, the filmmakers weave the background story and enhance these accounts through compelling video footage of how orcas are captured and family groups separated, as well as the strident living conditions of these majestic animals. Cowperthwaite likens the existence of orcas in captivity to that of a human forced to live out his or her life in a bathtub.

The film reveals that SeaWorld teaches visitors that orcas live longer in captivity, when it is a known fact they do not. This calls into question the park’s entire educational program and reveals the consequences of keeping wild animals in confinement. In the wild, the dorsal fins of orcas stand tall. In captivity, they flop.

Blackfish should be seen, if not for the sake of the captive animals and the trainers who work with them, then for the children in your life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that our dominion over “other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute . . . it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation” (2415).

Not yet rated, PG-13 ■ Peril, violent images.

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