Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.
Documentary time, everybody fall asleep! Just kidding, don’t fall asleep. The orcas know when you sleep and their long range vocalizations can kill humans. Okay, not really. But you should totally pay attention because Blackfish (Netflix) is fucking horrifying. You may have heard about this movie earlier this year because Sea World, the subject of the doc, responded with both barrels when it came out. We’ll get to that in a minute.
I don’t usually like one-sided documentaries because, convincing though they always are, few documentarians seem able resist the impulse to spin a situation even more in favor of their position than objectivity might allow. I don’t know a great deal about documentary filmmaking. (Or filmmaking in general. Or anything, really.) Still it seems to me there ought to be something of a journalistic obligation to present the facts in support of both sides of an argument. It’s why Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock infuriate me so much. It’s not that their movies aren’t compelling, it’s that I have a hard time trusting the merits of their arguments when theirs is the only side I hear.
Anyway, Blackfish is an exception. It is transparently and 100% anti-Sea World. (See, e.g., interviews with whistleblowing former trainers in full make-up standing in front of idyllic fields.) Yet despite my general mistrust of such things I was fucking sold.
I’ve seen animals at the zoo and thought for millisecond how depressing their lives must be living in pens when they instinctively need to be roaming the savannah. That usually lasts as long as it takes to walk briskly past the enclosure to the next exhibit. But to see how smart killer whales are and how intensely they love their young, and then to see how monstrously Sea World and other exhibitors treat them, it’s just disgusting. I have a hard time imagining a counterargument that makes any of that seem okay.
Added Bonus: Once you’ve seen the movie, be sure to check out Sea World’s point-by-point response to some of the film’s more damning claims. Know which one isn’t addressed? The one about how a 12,000 pound orca ate two trainers because his lifelong captivity drove him insane.