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Blackfish at Athens Theater Monday 7 p.m.

John Jett

Blackfish, the award-winning documentary that tells the story of Tilikum, a performing killer whale that killed several people while in captivity, will be screened tonight, Monday, Sept. 30, 7 p.m. at the Athens Theater in a special engagement, free of charge, for the Stetson University community. John Jett, Ph.D., visiting biology professor at Stetson, who worked closely with director-producer Gabriela Cowperthwaite on this film, has helped make this special screening possible for his Stetson colleagues, including faculty, students and staff and their friends and family. The Athens Theater is located at 124 N. Florida Ave., in downtown DeLand.

Jett is prominently featured in this film, having worked as a whale trainer at Sea World years before joining the ranks of academia. His interviews featured in the film are among the emotional interviews that explore the effects of captivity on killer whales. Blackfish compiles shocking footage of many personal interviews  that represent an important point in the history of the captive marine mammal industry.

“SeaWorld and other marine parks have historically based their business model on expertly controlling the flow of information in a way that best fits their monetary interests,” said Jett. “Because of Blackfish (and other works, such as David Kirby’s, Death at SeaWorld), they no longer control the message. The cat is now out of the bag. Blackfish has forced the conversation to begin evolving from one of a manufactured fairytale (“The whales love us and they want to do tricks…”) to that of being honest and accurate. The documentary is unprecedented in the 40 years orcas have been in captivity, in that for the first time in the history of this issue, former orca trainers have come forward to provide an honest look behind the curtains.  The scene is often quite ugly so it’s obvious why the industry has never wanted the public to know the truth.  All of us associated with Blackfish are proud to affect a better life for the animals who have been so tragically exploited for profit.”

Blackfish explores the whales’ extraordinary nature, their cruel treatment in captivity and the lives and losses of the trainers brought on by the pressures inherent in the multi-billion dollar sea-park industry.

“Killer whales are far too sophisticated socially, and their environmental demands too great for life in a concrete box,” Jett explains. “Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite deserves much credit for presenting the evidence in a balanced, compelling and non-lecturing way. The industry will be forced to evolve as the public becomes increasingly educated on the issue.”

Visit blackfishmovie.com to learn more about the documentary. For more information about the Sept. 30 screening, contact Stetson University Marketing at (386) 822-8920.