Ulisses

This short film tells the story of the life of the oldest male whale in captivity, Ulisses.

In the 80s he arrived at Barcelona Zoo. His trainer Albert taught him to perform for the crowds. Later he was transferred to Sea World in San Diego, USA, where he remains to this day.

There is a melancholic ambivalence in the tone of the entire film. All credit to the composer of the score for walking that fine balance. It manages to capture the sense of wonder and joy of the crowds seeing Ulisses back in the 80s. The children, in their innocence, feeling a genuine sense of awe at the astonishing creature, and inspiring gratitude and curiosity about the ocean’s treasures. That positivity sits alongside the reflections of an adult’s eyes, seeing the tragedy that this wild animal was robbed of its freedom. It was wrong. It still is wrong.

As the years pass by, you see the close relationship between Ulisses and his trainer. Albert has such a level of trust with the animal, he is able to hold fish in his mouth and let Ulisses surface to eat it right from his lips. When Ulisses is flown to America, Albert is there with him all the way, and he stays with him until he has settled in to his new accommodation. Despite the exploitative circumstances of their meeting, Albert’s love for Ulisses is real.

And yet, as the decades dance by, and the children who watched Ulisses grow up, and Albert grows older, and we change, our lives all change, there is Ulisses. Still in his tank, still performing tricks. Let him go. Hasn’t he given us enough? How long do we intend to perpetuate this injustice?

An empathetic and non-judgemental, unspoken plea for the freedom of captive whales.