The Cove
In a fight, I don’t like her chances …

Golden Mug


Theatrical Release Date: 07/31/2009
Director: Louie Psihoyos

“Heroes” fans and those who follow celebrity news may remember a piece sometime ago regarding actress Hayden Panettiere and some activism in Japan where she a group of others tried to stop fisherman from killing dolphins. They quickly left the country to avoid arrest but her celebrity status helped to promote the cause and filmmaker Louie Psihoyos’ documentary, “The Cove” is hoping to do the same.

Many people remember the “Flipper” television series (I’m not discussing the rebooted version with Jessica Alba) and one of the instrumental people behind its success was Richard O’Barry. He was the dolphin trainer responsible for caring for and directing the set of dolphins that portrayed Flipper. He didn’t think much of the effects captivity would have on the animals until the end of series, as he became convinced of their intelligence and how he felt that keeping them for our own entertainment was cruel.

Since that time, he has become the figurehead of a movement to free dolphins worldwide and has been arrested multiple times as a result during various protests or trespassing to effect dolphin escapes. Enlisting the help of Psihoyos and a team of people to shed light on a particular cove in Taiji, Japan, the documentary hopes to get the world organizations responsible for animal safety to shut down the dolphin herding and slaughter there.

In their path are the Japanese fisherman (and by their inaction, the Japanese government) who feel that the tradition of killing whales and dolphins outweighs the outside world’s denouncement of their activities. These fisherman attempt to get Barry and the team to overstep their bounds or catch them in the act of trespassing too near the cove so they can be arrested and deported.

The film plays out at times like a heist film, with cameramen and divers using infrared technology to make sure no one is there to catch the placement of cameras or their forays into the killing grounds to gather evidence. They even enlisted the help of some of the special effects wizards at Industrial Light & Magic.

What’s really nice about “The Cove” is that Psihoyos crafted not only an activist film but an entertaining one as well. They balance the moments that will cause animal lovers to boil up with rage and sadness inside with humorous ones, mostly involving the ridiculous behavior of some of the fisherman in their attempts to shoo away the inquisitive team.

I would have liked to see Psihoyos interview someone on the Japanese side of things, though perhaps he tried and could not find anyone willing to speak on the subject (or to him considering the team’s well established intentions). This is a film review, not a manifesto, and I always prefer a documentary cover all sides of the argument fully in order to let the viewer make their own decision. While it’s hard to emotionally justify the killing of over 20,000 dolphins a year, I’d have liked to see a rational argument posed on the fisherman’s side just for comparison’s sake.

Still, I highly recommend people check out “The Cove” (which is available on DVD) – a 4 out of 5, it’s a well crafted documentary and entertaining as well as educational. You may or may not rethink the joy in watching dolphin shows at theme parks from now on but the important thing is to have that knowledge to make a more informed decision. That’s all that Psihoyos or anyone else could ask on any social/environmental matter.