Blackfish

How captivity drives whales mad

Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite

(PG-13)

****

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This “heartbreaking and beautifully crafted documentary” shines much-needed light on a popular form of family entertainment, said Tirdad Derakhshani in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Trick-performing orca whales have delighted audiences for years at marine parks like SeaWorld, yet the evidence gathered here suggests that merely holding these creatures in captivity represents “the essence of cruelty.” Much of the footage that the director has assembled is “painful to watch,” said Jeannette Catsoulis in The New York Times. Whales bleed from injuries inflicted by peers, and one trainer is crushed before our eyes. But this “delicately lacerating” film also gets its power from interviews with rueful ex-trainers, all of whom question the wisdom of penning up intelligent, sociable animals that are born to roam free. SeaWorld has disputed several of the film’s claims, but the world’s largest orca-entertainment firm isn’t the only party to blame, said Michael O’Sullivan in The Washington Post. “It’s hard to imagine anyone coming out of this movie” and “not swearing off” the next family visit to a sea park.

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