7:00 PM, 7th June, 2014
One of 2013’s most acclaimed documentaries, Blackfish acts as a chilling exposé of what really goes on at SeaWorld. After a killer whale named Tilikum killed one of his trainers, documentarian Gabriela Cowperthwaite investigated SeaWorld’s claims that the victim was to blame for her own gruesome death and ultimately produced this film, which uncovers the true consequences of subjecting intelligent creatures to traumatic capture and imprisonment.
The film features candid interviews with several former SeaWorld employees, as well as the man who originally captured Tilikum as a calf, who nearly breaks down in tears at the memory. Perhaps the movie’s only shortcoming is that there are no dissenting opinions offered by SeaWorld, but according to the filmmakers their repeated attempts to obtain interviews with a spokesperson from the organisation were all refused.
If the documentary is one-sided, SeaWorld only has itself to blame. As it is, the interviews offered, along with truly horrifying footage of attacks by captive killer whales, are both powerful and shocking.
Whether you agree with the film’s conclusions or not, Blackfish will make you think twice about ever visiting SeaWorld – or make you regret it if you already have.
8:29 PM, 7th June, 2014
Pancasila Youth was a pro-regime paramilitary group in Indonesia in the ’60s. Members of the group were responsible for the murder and torture of over a million alleged communists, ethnic Chinese and intellectuals. Chief amongst the leaders of the group was Anwar Congo, and he and his followers are to this day proud of their deeds (which, to date, have gone unpunished) and are acclaimed as national heroes. When the filmmakers of this documentary ask them to re-enact the murders in the style of the American movies they love so much, they take to the challenge with enthusiasm, using hired actors and elaborate sets and costumes to create lavish musical numbers and thrilling crime dramas (amongst other styles).
As much as I have a small reluctance to say ‘You HAVE to see this’ for a documentary about mass political killings… you HAVE to see this movie. Particularly if you believe that there are no original concepts in movies these days. But the movie is more than a depiction of terrible events from half a century ago. Oppenheimer’s film becomes a dissertation on identity and memory, and how pop culture shapes and is shaped by societies.
It is complex, unnerving stuff (an audience member after a screening in Berlin said that what the director had done was ‘like having SS officers re-enact the Holocaust’. Oppenheimer responded that it is not the same at all because ‘the Nazis are no longer in power’) and a must-see from the programme.