Taiji, Japan has had a terrible secret for years. If you have heard of this movie, you probably have an inkling as to what that secret is: dolphin slaughter. While Japanese whalers have gained notoriety in recent decades for refusing to stop killing dozens of animals a year, the dolphin trade goes on quietly and secretly killing hundreds a month. Why squeamish about dolphins, as compared to tuna or other large meat creatures of the sea? The primary concern is their level of intelligence, but also the inhumane — and wasteful, excessive — methods being employed by the fishermen in this cove.
Filmmaker Louis Psihoyos and passionate, guilt-ridden activist Ric O’Barry set out to document that which has been hidden from the public. Not just the Save The Whales Rainbow Warriors public, the international whaling commissions, and the Japanese whale-meat-loving public. Even those people don’t want to eat dolphin meat, never mind brutally massacred, mercury-tainted dolphin meat dressed as whale meat. Still, even with the hypothetical condemnation of most of the world (hypothetically, oh yes, if that was really happening, that would be horrible) the small group of men who control that small inlet have enough pull that investigation and prosecution are impossible. With no real legal support or hope for rescue if caught, Psihoyos, O’Barry, and a small team of helper-specialists set out to secretly document what they can. The behavior of the Japanese around the area is incredibly suspicious and it’s incredible to think that no one has managed to break the silence before.
Not unlike Man on Wire, the majority of The Cove is the set up for the caper, the backgrounds of the team, and O’Barry’s story of the dolphin trade and the troubles with the authorities. He is a man who feels he was practically the originator of the international passion for whale and dolphin captivity. As the Cove unspools its films of captive sea mammals, you might think, “what lovely creatures, but that doesn’t look like such a bad life.” His intimate experiences with dolphins back from his days working on the TV show Flipper are illuminating and will probably change your mind about the wonders of living at Sea World surrounded by screaming people when your primary sense organ is your hearing.
Capture surely isn’t as bad as wholesale slaughter, right? Why even focus on the relatively lucky who are least make it out of Japanese waters alive? Like all good documentaries, The Cove is here to paint on the wider canvas around its tightly focused subject. After all, when we see the footage obtained with such pains, it becomes much more clear. No Hollywood film, fiction or non-, can ever prepare you for the reality of what goes on in that cove. Please don’t show this film to young children. The facts leading up to the revelation are fascinating and sobering. The results are devastating. I am amazed that even after this thunderclap of an expose that there has not been more mobility on the subject, but perhaps it is only waiting for one of you out there to see it. The credits do bring a glimmer of hope and a call to action, so hopefully the world will shut that practice down once and for all. The Cove is terrible and marvelous and something to see.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 8/20/09
Time in minutes p2
Director Louis Psihoyos