The Cove

The Cove

Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Lionsgate / Roadside Attractions

Original release: July 31st, 2009
Certificate (UK): 12A
Running time: 130 minutes

Director: Louie Psihoyos
Writer: Mark Monroe
Composer: J. Ralph

Cast: Joe Chisholm, Mandy-Rae Cruikshank, Charles Hambleton, Simon Hutchins, Kirk Krack, Isabel Lucas, Richard O’Barry, Hayden Panettiere, Roger Payne, John Potter, Louie Psihoyos

Official Movie Site

I was about nine years old when I first discovered the loveable dolphin named Flipper. I remember asking my parents how such a graceful creature could do such intelligent things. I went through years of entertaining myself with documentaries on how smart dolphins were and writing on my bucket list that I must swim with them. But it wasn’t just me – the whole world went dolphin crazy.

From 1964 to 1967, television shows and films were dominated by Flipper-Fever. So much so that a Sea World in San Diego, USA, opened in the same year that Flipper aired, with a few trained dolphins and other features to bring the television show to life. People everywhere wanted to swim and interact with dolphins, building a platform for a multi-million dollar industry. As the fever commenced, marine owners were capturing more and more dolphins to train as the main attraction in their oceanariums.

The Cove

The Hollywood take on dolphin stories portrayed a perfect/hunky dory view of the attractions. However, behind the scenes there were devastating consequences for the innocent animals that had become part of a worldwide media frenzy.

This is where we begin our story. The Cove is an inspirational look at Ric O’Barrys activist work dealing with the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan.

O’Barry, the head trainer for the show, switched from being a comfortable dolphin lover, to being an animal activist, after Kathy the dolphin (who starred as Flipper) took her own life in his arms.

“She swam into my arms and looked me right in the eye, took a breath and didn’t take another one. I let her go and she sank straight down on her belly to the bottom of the tank” Ric O’Barry recounting Kathy’s death on Oprah Winfrey’s Earth Day Special
A shocking statistic that more than 20,000 dolphins and porpoises are being killed each year in Taiji.

This, of course, is a part of the story that has been kept hidden from the public by the Japanese Government.

The Cove

In an effort to expose the horrific cruelty to dolphins, Ric O’Barry and a group of filmmakers went to Taiji and became an Oceans 11-type team consisting of an expedition director, two free divers, and a military technology expert. Using hidden cameras, thermal cameras, sound recorders and numerous other devices, the crew were determined to uncover the truth.

After countless hours of debating and negotiating with the Taiji council, the team were given a map of the cove, marked with red crosses to show where they must not intrude. Risking their own safety and freedom, the crew knew those were the places they needed to be and trespassed on a strictly prohibited locations in and around the cove to plant their hidden cameras.

Not only did this film aim to expose Japans cruel whaling expeditions, it also aimed to expose mercury poisoning to thousands of Japanese people. Referring to archive footage from the famous Minamata disease tragedy that struck Japan in 1956, the film explains the effects of mercury poisoning and informs the audience that most of the ‘whale’ meat that is sold in Japan is actually dolphin meat, which is high in mercury and very dangerous to the public’s health.

The Cove

Ric O’Barrys voice over, co-joined with the director Louie Psihoyos, gave the documentary a narrative structure. They told the story in chronological order, declaring their emotions throughout, making the events unfolding even more realistic.

Aside from all the fancy gadgets they used, what struck me the most about this documentary were the stylistic features. The film was presented beautifully, with shocking and hard-hitting material, excellent archive footage that was entertaining and relevant, a brilliant structure that kept you entertained and impressive editing; all of which added to the overall presentation of the documentary.

Rather than the documentary being a sad reflection of an already distressing subject, the filmmakers made it colorful and jam-packed with interesting information. Instead of having dismal thoughts when the film came to closing, it was an inspirational wake-up call to the events happening in Japan. So much so that I got up, went to my computer, searched Ric O’Barry, and I’m currently getting a newsletter every month that tells me what I can do to help.

About Alison Devlin

Alison Devlin

Alison Devlin is in her final year of studying Media, aiming to be a professional critic in a magazine. She occupies her time with writing in her blog , making short art films, writing short scripts, doodling in her notebook, decorating her room with movie posters, watching documentaries about wildlife and taking calls as a receptionist at her part time job.

Her favourite films include Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, The Woman in Black, and Alice in Wonderland. An admirer of Quentin Tarantino, she enjoys reading about and watching postmodernism programmes, such as ‘The Mighty Boosh’ and ‘Family Guy’. Also a devoted fan to Alfred Hitchcock, she hopes to one day make cameo appearances in her own written films.

You can follow her on Twitter @devlinalison.