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For all the seriousness of her work, those close to the filmmaker talk about her goofy side. "Ask her to imitate Barack Obama," her mother, Irma Ponti-Cowperthwaite, suggests.
"I'm pretty sure she knows all the lyrics to Rush's '2112,' and I know for a fact that she once stalked Zack de la Rocha all day outside a record store," says friend Sarah Skaggs.
After spending more than two years making Blackfish and another year talking about it, Cowperthwaite says she is "percolating" on her next project. She has no intention of selling out her autonomy just for a big paycheck.
"I want to continue to find my own ideas and nurture them. I would prefer to work on projects I feel strongly about and do them with an independent spirit," Cowperthwaite says. "It's much more gratifying as a filmmaker to be able to piss someone off and not have a corporation be able to tell you what you can and cannot say.
"This film couldn't have worked if I had to be careful about who I was pissing off. I think for documentary work you need to be untethered to the powers that be. You might be exposing them - who knows?"