By Charlene Hendricks
The internationally acclaimed and Oscar winning documentary, The Cove, delves into the intricacies of Japans rampant dolphin slaughter in the name of culture and tradition. Directed by National Geographic photographer Louie Psihoyos, the film is a call to action to halt mass dolphin kills, change Japanese fishing practices and educates the public about the risks, and increasing hazards of mercury poisoning from dolphin meat.
The film follows former dolphin trainer and now animal activist Richard O’Barry in his quest to expose the cruel slaughter of dolphins in an isolated cove of the coast of the city of Taiji. In this cove, a group of Taiji fishermen engage in dolphin drive hunting. The local fishermen attempt to hide this activity from the public by cordoning of the area as well as physically blocking and threatening volunteers who attempt to expose their actions. The film states that the dolphin hunt is, in large part, motivated by the tremendous revenue generated for the town by selling some of the captive dolphins to aquariums and marine parks.
The dolphins that are not sold into captivity are then slaughtered in the cove and their meat is sold in supermarkets. Most Japanese are unaware of this primitive hunting and marketing of dolphin meat. Moreover dolphin meat contains dangerously high levels of mercury which can lead to Minamata disease.
“A dolphin’s smile is the greatest deception. It creates the illusion that they’re always happy." – Richard O’Barry
Directed by: Louie Psihoyos
Produced by: Fisher Stevens and Paula DuPre Pesmen
Written by: Mark Monroe
Release Date: July 31, 2009
Running Time: 91 minutes
Box Office: $1,140,043
The Cove team with their Best Documentary Feature Oscar at the 82nd Academy Awards, 2010
"The dolphins that are not sold into captivity are then slaughtered in the cove and their meat is sold in supermarkets. Most Japanese are unaware of this primitive hunting and marketing of dolphin meat. Moreover dolphin meat contains dangerously high levels of mercury which can lead to Minamata disease. .”
The documentary was filmed using state-of-the-art equipment such as hidden high definition cameras and underwater hydrophones. Some media in Japan have questioned whether on scene was manufactured for the camera, discussed whether the movie should properly be called a documentary and sought to discredit it. Louie Psihoyos argued that such allegations are fabricated to protect the local whaling industry and that none of the scenes in the film were staged.
Overall the film received positive reviews, but there are several unfavorable review as well, describing it as well made propaganda. In many ways this documentary serves as the eye opener to those who are unaware of the cruel practices occurring in Japan. A living breathing creature of beauty is being slaughtered in the name of mercenary trade and profit. In effect by looking at nature, The Cove shows us what it means to be human. It does what every great documentary with a cause should – It educates, entertains and inspires audiences to take action.