An Important, Virtually Unknown Problem Needs To Be Exposed
thornhillatthemovies.com | Venice, CA United States | 08/17/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The new documentary "The Cove" tells a story the Japanese government would rather not be made public.
Richard O'Barry, the principal subject of the film, wrestles with almost constant feelings of remorse. In the mid 60s, he served as the technical advisor for the successful television show "Flipper"; he helped find, train and care for the dolphins who played the title character. The success of the series is viewed as the catalyst to the creation of "Ocean Parks" around the world, places like the various "Sea World" parks, where thousands of people visit every year to watch dolphins, whales and other sea creatures perform tricks. O'Barry learns of a small fishing village in Japan, Taijii, where the main business is to capture dolphins and herd them into captivity. They sell the best dolphins to parks, exhibits, "swimming with dolphins" type businesses and more, earning as much as $150,000 for the best of the best. But what do they do with the rest of these creatures? The ones that don't sell? O'Barry knows and he wants to expose the truth to the world in an effort to put a stop to it.
He enlists the aid of Louie Psihoyos, a documentary filmmaker, who assembles a team of people. They begin to gather all of the equipment they will need for the project and make many plans on how to infiltrate the secret areas before they set off for Japan. As soon as they arrive, the sheer amount of baggage (all of their equipment) catches the attention of the authorities and they are quickly under surveillance. The police visit O'Barry many times, each time trying to get him to admit his guilt. He doesn't trust them and they don't believe him.
As soon as they arrive in Taijii, O'Barry gives them a tour, always wearing a face mask, afraid some of the fishermen will kill him if they could get their hands on him. They pass a Dolphin Museum, complete with a happy, smiling dolphin painted on the side. O'Barry quickly explains how ironic this is.
Using techniques that are probably more common to a "Mission Impossible" sequel, they come up with a plan to infiltrate this heavily guarded area, place some hidden cameras and get some proof on film.
As we watch them go through these incredibly over the top security measures, the story slowly comes into focus. This is one of the most interesting elements of the story, of the film. Initially, O'Barry appears as though he could be a crackpot, the type of guy who probably smoked too many illegal substances once and now sees conspiracies around every corner. But as the story progresses, we start to see what he is talking about and realize he is right, just extremely passionate about the cause.
As he and the other volunteers work their way through the plan, we pick up more pieces of the puzzle until we learn the full truth.
And the truth is shocking. And watching video of this is only more disturbing.
Naturally, these fishermen have gone through the trouble of capturing these dolphins. The dolphins that aren't purchased by a "Sea World" like organization must be put to good use. And the use these fishermen come up with is pretty unsettling.
This is a film we should all see, to help spread the word. If we spread the word, we can put a stop to what is happening in Taijii, Japan."
Secret Slaughter: Today's "Silent Spring"
B. Merritt | WWW.FILMREVIEWSTEW.COM, Pacific Grove, California | 02/18/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"About 3/4 of the way through THE COVE, I nearly turned it off. Not because it was a bad film, but because it was almost too painful to keep watching. I grew up, like many my age, watching the hit TV show, Flipper. It was a great adventure going along with Bud, Sandy, their dad and, of course, Flipper the dolphin. I used to pretend to swim with him (Flipper) and thought it would be the coolest thing to be able to feed and play with a dolphin. So it was doubly troubling to see Ric O'Barry (the man who helped capture and train Flipper) as the centerpiece for this film. After watching the original Flipper die in captivity, Ric learned a hard lesson: that creatures with this kind of intelligence should never be kept in captivity, nor should they be harmed.
Fast forward to today, and we find Ric in Taijii, Japan near a small cove where, every September, the unthinkable happens. A mass slaughter of hundreds or even thousands of dolphins turns the water (literally) red. The local government and fisherman don't want anyone to see this event, nor even get too close to the cove. Ric and his friends, who simply try to film here, are harassed, pushed away (physically) or arrested on "pending" charges. So, in order to get the footage they need, Ric and friends hire specialized cameras and camera operators to hide digital recorders around the cove (including an underwater microphone) so that this atrocity can be witnessed.
They go in like a Navy Seal team, with night-vision and under the cover of darkness. It is an act of incredibly risk because it has become all too apparent that the locals will do anything (including act violently) to protect their secret slaughter. When the recordings come back, and we get to see them, it is ....how to even put it into justifiable words ...it's so painful to watch that I actually got choked up. There's no music playing; nothing to add to the pulling of your heartstrings. The repeated stabbing of the dolphins is ...beyond cruel. They literally bleed to death. But if it weren't tough enough watching that, we get to see the response of the other dolphins while they await their turn. A baby dolphin, probably no more than two feet long, tries to jump out of the water in order to save itself, only to fall back into the red sea and be slashed across the throat. It is this brutal act that will stun most viewers and will undoubtedly spur some into action against Japan's ocean policies.
Not surprising, Japan has been battling to keep it's commercial whaling and fisheries open. And in these tough economic times, it has even found friends in the IWC (International Whaling Commission).
The great thing about the film is that it isn't anti-fishing. It simply asks that this type of senseless slaughter stop. No one eats dolphin (knowingly), and most shouldn't because of the high levels of mercury present in the meat (even sushi-grade tuna has high levels). So why does this slaughter happen? The real answer is individuality and not wanting to be told what to do by outsiders. A few of the dolphins are singled out for "saving." They'll become trained dolphins at Seaworld and the like. But the rest become additive fish meat wrapped in plastic in the fresh fish section.
The only downside to the film is that it doesn't address what would happen to the small city of Taijii if the dolphin slaughter were stopped. Would the city survive? What would happen to the fisherman who's livelihood relies on this? If those who really want to affect change are interested in procuring that change, they should make a plan that involves the Taijii fisherman and their future livelihoods if the dolphin slaughter were halted. That would be a great way to succeed in stopping this annual "event."
Still, this story was amazingly told and was so tough to watch, that it will linger with me for a very long time."
A must-see documentary
Roland E. Zwick | Valencia, Ca USA | 02/04/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
Ric O'Barry may be the world's premier lover of dolphins, but the one place you'll never find him at is Sea World taking in a show. That's because he'd much rather expend his time and energy in freeing those marvelous creatures from captivity - an act for which he has been arrested numerous times and which has earned him the status of persona non grata in many quarters. Yet, although O'Barry may be an "environmental whacko" (maybe even a "dangerous criminal") in the eyes of some, to others - and certainly to the dolphins whose freedom and well-being he champions - O'Barry is a real life hero.
The remarkable, consciousness-raising documentary "The Cove" chronicles O'Barry's efforts to make a clandestine video record of a dolphin slaughter that takes place regularly in a secluded cove in Taiji, Japan, far away from public view. Here thousands of dolphins are trapped, some to be captured and sold to dolphinariums, but most to be brutally massacred for food. To get his video, O'Barry enlisted the aid of various friends and colleagues, who formed a kind of "Ocean's Eleven" special ops team of high-tech video and sound engineers, to pull off the scheme.
Why, some might wonder, should animals like dolphins and whales be protected from such ritualized slaughter when other mammals like cows and sheep are not? O'Barry would posit that it is because, alone among all God's creatures, the dolphin has a uniquely symbiotic relationship with mankind, as evidenced by tales told from time immemorial of dolphins rescuing humans stranded at sea and even of protecting them from underwater predators such as sharks. And scientists have certainly shown that the dolphin is second to none among the animal kingdom when it comes to "intelligence" and the ability to communicate with one another. O'Barry goes so far as to argue that dolphins are so self-aware that they even have a sense of their own mortality.
The movie points out the irony that this obsession with training dolphins and whales for show purposes began in the early 1960s with the immense popularity of the TV series "Flipper." In other words, it was people's sudden intense interest in and love for the dolphin that became largely responsible for the desperate plight they're in today. O'Barry acknowledges his own culpability in this regard since it was he himself who helped to capture and train the five female dolphins that were used in the show. In the time since that program aired, dolphin-capturing has become a multi-million-dollar-a-year industry, primarily in Japan, and has resulted in "the largest slaughter of dolphins on the planet" (to the tune of 23,000 per year in that country alone). But after seeing the harm inflicted on these magnificent creatures by their captivity - dolphins normally swim 40 miles a day in the open waters - O'Barry's views quickly evolved to the point where he became a hardcore activist tirelessly fighting for their liberation. As he himself states, "I spent ten years building that industry up, and I spent the last thirty-five years trying to tear it down." If nothing else, "The Cove" is a story of one man's search for personal redemption.
But "The Cove" is much more than simply an informative documentary designed to do good in the world. It possesses all the drama and suspense of a real-life cloak-and-dagger espionage thriller as we go along with the team as they sneak their video and audio equipment past the authorities and plant it where it will do the most good. The movie also has all the emotional pull of a classic David and Goliath story, though in this case, there are actually two Goliaths, one, the Japanese fishing industry that is green-lighting the slaughter, and, the other, the farcically impotent International Whaling Commission (an admittedly weaker giant) whose job it ostensibly is to see that the slaughter doesn't happen. Quite a bit of the movie's running time, in fact, is devoted to showing the rampant corruption of that organization, as we see Japan overtly bribing smaller countries for their votes.
"The Cove" is definitely hard to watch at times, and the slaughter scene itself is certainly not for the faint-of-heart. But it is something that cries out to be seen - and acted upon (the movie appropriately ends with contact information for all those interested in helping out the cause). And director Louie Psihoyos counterbalances the ugliness with gorgeous shots of dolphins swimming freely in the open ocean - objects of matchless grace and beauty in the natural world. Moreover, the visuals are richly complemented by a lyrical, haunting score by J. Ralph.
No matter your view on the environment, after seeing "The Cove," you will never be able to look at Flipper or Sea World in the same way again."
An excellent documentary!
N. Duvoisin | Columbus, OH | 01/29/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The goal of The Cove is to stop the dolphin slaughter by exposing exactly what happens in Taiji. If humans were being slaughtered in the cove, it would be considered another Holocaust. After watching the movie, I'm not sure that there's any difference between what humans would experience and what the dolphins do experience in the cove. Watch the movie and decide for yourself."