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The Green Life: Movie Review Friday: A Fall From Freedom

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August 05, 2011

Movie Review Friday: A Fall From Freedom

Escape to the movies with one of our Movie Review Friday selections. Each week we review a film with an environmental theme. Seen a good eco-flick lately? Send us a short review and look for it in the next Movie Review Friday.

A Fall From Freedom (2011)

Available on DVD, or online for free


If you’re a child of the '90s, you probably watched Free Willy and felt connected to its anthropomorphized protagonist. Maybe you started to question the holding tanks and sideshows that have been penting up sea mammals for entertainment purposes since the '60s. After Willy, though, there were plenty of exposés of the inhumane world of captive cetaceans, targeted especially at outfits like SeaWorld.

If the arguments put forth by such activists moved you, so will A Fall From Freedom. A sugar-free swan song of its producers, much of its footage is from the '80s and '90s. After all, the anti-captivity movement has quieted since then. It isn’t a movie made to convince nonbelievers. The images of dolphins being slaughtered by the hundreds and orcas being piled into a small, dingy tank are compelling and grotesque, but polarizing in their extremeness. In this film, the captors (read: SeaWorld execs) are cruel liars, and each point they make is almost immediately rebuked by a scientist or activist. One man claims never to have met Japanese dolphin hunters; two seconds later, another man drops his name as their former liaison. Too lopsided a portrayal?

But then we cut back to the footage: lethargic whales kept alone for years, a mother and child orca separated by random nets. And statistics — boxed-up whales live half or quarter lifespans compared to how long they'd live in the wild. The film is appropriate, however, narrated calmly enough to enrage the viewer without resorting to yelling.

Fall is worth watching. Though not pioneering in its perspective, it’s heartbreaking and solidly factual, covering the political history of the whale-and-dolphin business from Monsanto to lobbyists. The bottom line is that since the '90s, things have gotten worse in this largely unregulated industry. So while the heyday of sea-mammal activism may have passed, here is a documentary that acts as a worthwhile vehicle to bring the issue back to the public eye. There’s still work to do, and A Fall From Freedom will help make people care.

--Mimi Dwyer

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