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‘Blackfish’ Director Talks About the Power of Film to Effect Change

Gabriela Cowperthwaite, director of the controversial “Blackfish” — about the dangers, not to mention the cruelty, of keeping orcas in captivity at marine parks like SeaWorld — outlined how films like hers can affect change at a luncheon celebrating the documentary at Hinoki and the Bird, David Myers’ restaurant in Century City.

Heart, Barenaked Ladies, Willie Nelson and, most recently, Cheap Trick, have cancelled their appearances at SeaWorld in Florida, and Joan Jett asked the amusement park franchise to stop using “I Love Rock & Roll” as part of their shows, Cowperthwaite told the assembled who feasted on vegan fare.

Among those in attendance were actress Kate Mara, an advocate of the film who was there with actor/boyfriend Max Minghella, producer Manuel Oteyza, and fellow documentarians Louis Psihoyas (“The Cove”) and Mark Jonathan Harris (“The Long Way Home”).

She also used the opportunity to defend herself from certain allegations by SeaWorld, which did not participate in her film but has criticized it publically.

“What Sea World is doing now is they are saying ‘wow, a small group of activists are coming out against the zoological industry’; we’re actually not,” Cowperthwaite told Variety. She cited places like the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is solely dedicated to education, as a viable business model, “and there’s not a cetacean in sight.”

“The best way is to have a sanctuary model, which is what you do for retired circus animals — animals who can’t survive in the wilds,” she added. “So you build them an environment that replicates their own environment as closely as possible. So for a killer whale it would be a sea sanctuary where you cordon off a cove and you retire animals to the natural rhythms of the ocean.

“And you could charge admission. Seeing a killer whale being a killer is so much more magnificent than actually seeing one doing tricks in a pool.”

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