113 of 118 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2010
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.
143 of 158 people found the following review helpful
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.
55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2010
I really think everyone should watch this documentary, not because this is just a great documentary (and it is), or because their cause deserve any more attention than any other animal cruelty or global warming issue, but because it pictures the kind of people the world is most in need nowadays.
These people are different from us, who, in most cases, see what is happening to earth and its wildlife and just think: "i wish i could do something to change all this", or maybe just don't care at all. This is where these people differ from us, they actually got out and did something about it, sometimes even risking themselves.
What is happening in Japan, and other places in the world, where dolphins are being literally slaughtered, is a cruelty, plain and simple. When i see something like this happening i think: "there is no hope for the human race, we're just doomed, we're killing this planet a creature at a time." But when these kind of people try to do something to change all this, the hope that was lying dead inside me just awakens again and I pray that my children and grandchildren (I'm 22 yo) can live in a better world than this.
Even without knowing any of them, I feel proud for the people who did this documentary. And if this post or review helps to gather more and more people to their cause, than this is just a tiny drop of water in an ocean compared to what they did. So buy this movie, donate to their cause, shout at the streets, just trying to do anything is better than doing nothing.
87 of 101 people found the following review helpful
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.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2010
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.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2010
this documentary is essentially about the the killing of dolphins(which
are part of the whale family) in a cove in a secretive area of
Japan,which is actually guarded to keep people away.it's not just the
fact that they are killed.it's how they are killed,and the reason they
are killed.they slaughtered while they are still alive and the
fisherman seem to revel in the killing.thousands of theses dolphins
have been killed.they are actually an endangered species.the Japanese
citizens on the street weren't even aware of this happening until told
by the filmmakers.but thanks to these courageous filmmakers,people are
beginning to realize what's going on,and hopefully Japan will wake up
and join the 21st century.very eye opening documentary that may make
you angry,and probably sad,but worth watching. 5/5
44 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2009
This is an excellent documentary. The film has the tactics of a covert operations task force, the watchability of a fiction action flick, and a desire to inform the public on a tragedy that is unlawfully being ignored. A must see for anyone interested in the environment, health, and the preservation of an intelligent, phenomenal mammal.
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2010
What do you do when politicians, unions, the news media, environmentalists and others know about a big social problem, but refuse to do anything about it? Why, you gather together some high-tech equipment, assemble a crack team of techies, activists and divers, infiltrate the hidden secret and then present the documented evidence to the world. That is exactly what director Louie Psihoyos has done with this film, "The Cove", taking guerrilla filmmaking to a higher level and earning all the accolades that this film has been getting.
In this case, the "hidden secret" is the capturing and slaughtering of thousands of dolphins each year in the small fishing town of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. The lead protagonist in the film is dolphin trainer Ric O'Barry of "Flipper" fame, who is public enemy No. 1 in Taiji for his open opposition to the dolphin killing. He's also not real popular among the aquarium-type theme parks (called the "captivity industry") worldwide that do big business buying dolphins directly from Taiji.
So to document the slaughter, the use of hidden cameras in the nearby woods, a sound recorder in the cove of Taiji and a remote-controlled helicopter are creatively employed. To pull it off, of course, you need experts in their craft to carry out the missions and avoid getting busted by the Japanese police. In fact, looking at the documentary as a whole, it's amazing how the filmmaking team even managed to get it all done and get the movie into theaters and onto DVD in the first place.
To help balance things out in "The Cove" there is also coverage of the International Whaling Commission gatherings (useless though they are) as well as an interview with a Japanese government official in Tokyo. Two local politicians in Taiji, at great risk to themselves, also offer a few comments on camera about toxic dolphin meat in Japanese school lunches.
Two issues come up in this film: the brutal treatment of dolphins (in Taiji and elsewhere), and the high rate of mercury found in dolphin meat in Japan that people are eating. In other words, animal rights and human welfare. The film does a good job of presenting those two issues as equally important and worthy of our attention and action.
For me, "The Cove" represents guerrilla filmmaking at its best and shows us the future possibilities for broadening even more this Renaissance of documentary filmmaking that we see happening around the world these days. The excellent editing of various dolphin footage and a top-notch musical soundtrack also help to make this a movie that should not be missed. Prepare to be informed and shocked by what you see here.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2010
Yes I am another Japanese here and I'd like to make some points here. Eating dolphins is not our tradition at all. It is very disturbing to me to find them always use the word of "tradition" to justify dolphin harvesting, but the fact is this kind of massive commercial dolphin hunting started only in late 50's. They claim dolphin harvesting has 400 year history there, but everybody knows that was not that big business as it is today until some decades ago. And the majority of us have never eaten dolphin meat. Many of us even did not know people in certain regions kill dolphins for meat until this movie became a hot topic. In fact, in Shizuoka, one town alone harvested nearly 10,000 dolphins every year since '60s until recent years. A result is they now can't continue harvesting anymore in such large numbers, since the population of the species they hunted was decimated. How many of us know that? Plus, thousands of dolphins were killed in years just because they competed with fishermen. Think twice. Think the way we drove many animals to near extinction. Many opponents to the movie claim the movie does not depict what is really happening. I watched news, read articles and comments left on internet forums about this. They all say the movie was edited too much emphasizing cruelty. I saw many of them trying to make an impression that the movie was totally fake because of the edits. But which edits they were talking about? To me, there is nothing wrong with editing films to make efficient presentation. As far as I saw, I did not see anything that intentionally tweaks the fact. Overall, I believe this movie was good in that the move shed light on many things we all should have known earlier and made (hopefully many of) us think the importance of not only dolphins but also all wild life and also the urgency of better nature education to the next generation.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2010
Just when you thought noone on the world really cared, you have this group of people that risk everything to save these dolphins from certain death and it makes you realize the world isn't that bad!!