Blackfish since its release has drawn an immense amount of attention, thanks in large part, to its popularity amongst celebrities and inexorable social media presence. Blackfish follow the life of Tillikum, an orca that was involved with the death of three of his trainers, a consequence of his captivity. The documentary does a masterful job of detailing the dangers and inhumanity of whales in captivity–from their capture to their monotonous existence of being imprisoned in a pool. The whole narrative is set at an alarming pace, marked by a stark sense of doom and danger–the documentary reads more as a terrifying thriller movie. It is in equal parts entertaining, disturbing, and profoundly moving–in a word perfect documentary filmmaking.
The movie was originally produced by CNN Films and intended for a small release at Sundance, then was fortunately picked up for distribution by Magnolia Pictures and was subsequently set for wide release in July 2013. The movie also aired on CNN during primetime, and was often repeated on the same network. It is arguably rare for a documentary to have such visibility, but its accessibility was the key factor to its overwhelming success.
Since its release Sea World has seemingly entered the last days of its tumultuous existence. The public outcry to end the captivity of orcas has been palpable since Blackfish aired. Sea World ticket sales are plummeting and their marketing and advertising campaigns since have been marked by an easily noticed air of desperation. Their credibility and authority have been obliterated in the eyes of the public and that is an accomplishment that can be accredited to this extraordinary film.