Deeply disturbing but moving "The Cove" details the Japan dolphin killings
If you're an animal lover, then the affecting yet shocking new documentary film "The Cove" is a must-see, but know that it is also deeply disturbing. It details the horrific slaughter of innocent dolphins in Taijii, Japan and a film crew's attempts to expose the cruel animal abuse and so that the abuse stops. A hit on the festival circuit, the persuasive but intelligent "Cove" is downbeat and heavy-handed, but this well-crafted documentary could very well provoke audiences to action.
Ric Barry became one of the first famous dolphin trainers on the popular 1960's TV "Flipper." He cared for the dolphins but after they died in captivity realized that they're better off in natural surroundings. Since then, he's become the premier dolphin activist, helping and saving dolphins in many areas where organizations like Greenpeace have problems.
Filmmaker Louie Psihoyos, a friend of Barry's, becomes familiar with his plight after Barry gives him a tour of "The Cove," part of a small fishing village in Taijii, Japan where thousands of dolphins are captured, the best ones sold to tourist attractions like Sea World across the globe and then the rest are slaughtered and their mercury-laden meat (often unknowingly) sold to other areas of the country.
Psihoyos rounds up some astute, professional filmmakers and world-class divers to help Barry publicize the abuse occuring in Taijii, but they run into all sorts of obstacles - physical, political and financial – not to mention an obtrusive jerk and townsperson they call “Private Space” since that’s all he screams at them - that stand in their way to show the world the cruelty occurring on another end of the globe but has become a multi-million dollar business to the fishing community of Japan.
"The Cove" is a tremendously informative, entertaining but weighty documentary that exposes the outrageous cruelty (most may be unaware that dolphins are actually considered part of the whale family) and up until its final wrenching minutes, isn't near as graphic as it could be. Psihoyos' footage is astounding, though it's even more fascinating how he obtained the footage, with the help of some creative movie special effects types of accompany him on the journey. They’re nightly stealth missions to obtain footage is an enjoyable divergence from the otherwise intense subject matter. It's also ironic how Barry, who became rich and famous training dolphins in captivity, became an all-out activist after one of his dolphins died in his arms.
There are some hauntingly unforgettable, sad scenes that will stay with you long after you've left "The Cove" in the theatre: A lone, bloody dolphin near death, gasping for its last breath as it comes racing across the cove; the bright bloody waters of the small lagoon after the killings take place; or the inept Japanese politicos, fisherman and townspeople, all of who've made millions off the abuse. Barry himself is a vivid but peaceful activist in "The Cove's" closing affecting moments as he enters a meeting and walks the streets of Tokyo with a TV strapped to his chest to inform the unaware Japanese masses of the dolphins’ plight.
"The Cove" is a stirring, superbly made and ambitious documentary with an ultra large scope, and largely without a clear resolution. And with such a downbeat subject matter and more prevailing world issues, will the slaughter of the dolphins stop? Let’s certainly hope so, and while some minor changes have already been made, this dolphin abuse will continue unless someone steps in to intervene. These messages and more ring very emotionally and sometimes heavy-handed throughout “The Cove,” particularly in its sketchy criticisms of the Japanese government.
Will it be the political process, or the passion of a few individuals to truly make a difference? That remains to be seen, but you can start by seeing "The Cove," a heartbreaking, thought-provoking film and one of the best documentaries this year.