Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Blackfish [2013]

MPAA (PG-13) (3 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing (M. Zoller Seitz) review
AVClub (M. D'Angelo) review

Blackfish [2013] (directed and cowritten by Gabriela Cowperthwaite along with Eli B. Despress) is a documentary centering on the treatment of Orcas known also as Killer Whales at marine-based amusement parks like "SeaWorld" in the aftermath of the 2010 death/killing of Orlando SeaWorld Trainer Dawn Brancheau by an arguably troubled Orca/Killer Whale named Tilikum who had already been involved in the deaths of two other people previously. 

While it is more or less obvious that Cowperthwaite's sympathies tend to side with Animal Rights proponents who question the morality of keeping of large sea creatures, clearly intelligent (otherwise one wouldn't be able to train them), often playful, in captivity often from childhood for decades at a time, IMHO she does a decent enough job navigating the minefield of ideology (on both sides) and money involved in the controversy.  SeaWorld is a money making enterprise, but it is also presumably capable of funding a lot of research that may be (or become) hard to fund otherwise.

Here I also confess that I've been fascinated by the question of "getting into the minds" of clearly intelligent animal species ranging from dogs to elephants to parrots/crows to chimps/gorillas to octopuses to dolphins and whales to even ants/bees and even vines/plants (whose rhythms and movements become discernible with time-lapse photography).  We have an annual blessing of animals around St. Francis' Feast Day at our parish and the little lawn area by the Church where we do so, has become over the years a surprisingly welcoming area for strays and even rabbits.  Do they "experience" that area as being "somehow special"?  How could one possibly know?  But I've seen over the years both strays (dogs) and even rabbits seemingly contently sitting there during summer evenings, again seemingly "contemplating" the vista of our rather large (and truth be told "needing work" parking lot ;-) and perhaps thinking: "Yeah, this is nice!" / "Life is good" and "I'm the Master of this space" (if for a while ;-).

Study in captivity could help researchers learn how to communicate with the seemingly more capable species with which we share our world and increasingly appreciate better how self aware they are (and then honestly see what they could teach us from their "point of view" / experience).  But I would hope that such study be done with respect toward the well-being of the creatures with which one would hope, over time, to enter into communication with.  In our world of webcams and even drones, all kinds of interesting, increasingly non-intrusive studies could be made.  And I would tend toward those kind of (increasingly non-intrusive) studies.  But I would not want to necessarily "throw away" the positive and potentially positive work that could be funded via for-profit institutions like SeaWorld.  They have a lot of money and certainly can be useful in funding such work.

In any case, this is a good thought provoking film that any dreamer / optimist / animal lover would certainly appreciate ;-)

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