Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite came to the campus after some film students had produced their own film criticizing SeaWorld and addressed an assembled group of them. She told them she wanted her documentary about the water-park’s captive killer whales to persuade SeaWorld to discontinue “using animals as entertainment.” Cowperthwaite also told the students that they need to form their own opinions on the issue.
Her film began, she said, as a research project on the death in 2010 of Orca trainer Dawn Brancheau and Tilikum, the killer whale. The U-T San Diego reported that Cowperthwaite stated:
I thought I was going to make a film about trainers and their relationships with the animals. I peeled back the onion, and I was shocked.
Some of the students had questions for the director, as many of them have grown up in the area and the marine animal park is in their “back yard”. Some have had friends or relatives work at SeaWorld so there was a special interest in “Blackfish” and what the producer had to say.
Cowperthwaite told them:
“Do your own research.”
SeaWorld was also invited to the event but declined, said Anthony Palmiotto who leads the Cinematic Arts Program at PLHS. A SeaWorld rep disputed the invite but stated that even if invited they would not have attended, and released this statement:
“As we responded a few weeks ago to the filmmaker’s debate challenge, we have no interest in helping promote a film this dishonest and manipulative. Our position has not changed. We did not receive any specific invitation from the schools regarding today’s screenings.
We would like to thank Kearny High School for inviting us to provide a SeaWorld presentation to their students last week. We applaud the school’s desire to provide its students information on both sides of the issue to help them make a more informed decision.
It’s unfortunate that we did not receive invitations from the other schools to provide a SeaWorld presentation to their students.”
The film along with protests of late at SeaWorld by animal rights activists have brought the park’s treatment of killer whales into high relief.