“Tilikum’s Revenge”

“Hotshots” looks at a movie!

Blackfish is a heartbreaking documentary about what has happened once again when humans mess with Mother Nature.


As an old television commercial used to say, “It’s not nice to mess with Mother Nature.”

“Blackfish” is the name that the First Nation’s people call the orca, or small gregarious whale that is also known as the killer whale, which we are told has 48 sharp teeth but is amazingly friendly and has no record of doing harm to humans in the wild.

The operative phrase here is “in the wild,” because the movie begins with a 911 call on February 24, 2010, from SeaWorld Park in San Diego and the chilling words, “A whale has eaten one of the trainers.”

The trainer was Dawn Brancheau, who was drowned and torn apart in front of horrified families during her performance with an orca named Tilikum.

Tilikum, one of the largest orcas in captivity, is now estimated to be 32, and he had been linked to two other deaths since he was captured in 1983 off the east coast of Iceland.

Incidentally, orcas are believed to have a life span comparable to that of humans, and we learn that there is every indication that they use language, and their brains have a part that humans don’t have, which is associated with an emotional center.

So, what went wrong with this gentle giant?

The movie uses interviews with experts and former trainers from SeaWorld and other marine parks to help us understand what happened in Tilikum’s past and come to a conclusion as to why this tragic death was not an accident and certainly not caused by anything the trainer did.

We learn about how orcas are trained to perform tricks during shows, how they are punished even by other orcas when they don’t perform as desired, and how mothers grieve when their babies are taken away from them and shipped to other marine parks for various reasons.

We also see interviews and learn about other tragedies around the world involving trained orcas at other marine parks, and you start to wonder how we allowed the situation to get to this point and why we allow it to continue to this day.

Blackfish is the tragic story of Tilikum’s revenge, who today is kept caged and brought out only to take bows.

I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”