Having worked on conservation films that have made a difference I’ve been lucky to have experienced the impact a single idea can have. Recently a moving and powerful film called Blackfish came out and exposed the ‘dirty little secret’ that marine parks didn’t want us to know. The 90 minute documentary follows the story of ‘Tilikum’ an orca that was captured off the coast of iceland in 1983 and taken from his pod when he was three years old. There is actual footage of a young orca being separated from it’s family and being captured. The family instead of running to save their lives circled the boat and just stayed and made sounds which can only be described as screaming in panic and grief.
This heartbreaking scene was just one of many that film has and it drives the point home. Seaworld is a giant amongst marine parks and has millions of visitors each year who had little or no idea about the ugly truth that lay behind the performing orcas and dolphins.
What made Tilikum infamous and central to the story is both unfortunate and tragic. Since his captivity Tilikum had killed three of his trainers and for the longest time Seaworld dodged any allegations and kept the show going on claiming the incidents were either trainer error or miscommunication with the animal during a performance or training, completely ignoring the fact that they had imprisoned an extremely intelligent and social animal in an enclosure which was barely large enough to contain him for 30 years!
Blackfish Film Trailer on Youtube:
Orcas live in a very close knit family structures in the wild and not unlike us, mother and child bond for life. The experts interviewed in the film believe that the trauma of being torn from his family and being kept in an environment of reward and punishment had eventually led to a kind of psychosis. Not hard to imagine if you can think of yourself trapped in a bathtub for 30 years and forced to perform for food!
With it’s release, the film went viral and swept across the world not only reaching people who were environmentally conscious but new audiences who after watching the film were now aware and ready to boycott Seaworld.
Almost at the same time unfortunately, in India the government of Maharashtra has approved a 509 crore rupee project to build the first oceanarium in the country. The park is expected to be thrown open this year but thankfully the the Ministry of Environment and Forests of India has released a policy statement forbidding the keeping of captive dolphins for public entertainment anywhere in the country. Hopefully the statement will hold and the marine park will not manage to twist its way around and pull us back into a form of ‘entertainment’ which the world is now renouncing. After seeing Blackfish, the ending of a 3D animated film Finding Dory produced by Pixar was rewritten and the depiction of a marine park was altered. Many musicians and bands which performed regularly at Seaworld events have cut ties and broken contracts. A simple film has turned into a movement and might well have triggered off a much needed change in policy and heart. This is the very impact anyone who works for positive and lasting change strives for and shows us anything is possible with a little intent and will.
Have you seen a ‘Responsible Film’ lately? Write to us at [email protected] (Subject: Responsible Films) and share your views (in 500 words) about your favorite film on environment & sustainability and why you think everyone must watch it.