29 Nov 2009

Movie Madness: The Cove



What can I say, these guys sure know how to get their message out, albeit in a highly manipulative-tug-on-the-heartstrings kind of way.

There's a reason the scientific community is a bit wary of Ric O'Barry, (who jump-started this project and is one of the focus-centres of the film)  he's the type of activist that might alienate more people than he actually convinces to his cause (no matter how righteous, he comes across as a bit arrogant and condescending, and I've heard him speak in person... to a group of scientists who definitely don't like being condescended to!). One of the friends I went to see this with (my way of getting the message out, ask friends if they want to go see a "documentary movie about dolphins") was a bit annoyed by the unfair treatment he felt the Japanese were receiving as a whole. But I have to point out that it's rare the documentary film that is truly impartial. And they did try to portray some of the Japanese as just ignorant (of what was going on in their country) instead of vicious dolphin-killers... Not that that's much better.

Now I'm not saying I wasn't moved by this film or that I think they were wrong. I am after all a marine biologist. And it was a deep love of dolphins (fuelled ironically from visits to dolphinaria as a child) that got me into biology in the first place, so I actually know and understand why it's important to protect marine mammals in general (both at the emotional and scientific level) and dolphins in particular (and no it's not 'cause their all cute and "friendly"). But this type of films play 100% at the emotional level. Someone who isn't swayed by their emotions won't be convinced by this film other than perhaps to say the dolphins should be killed in a more humane way. Because otherwise, like one of the fishermen in the film implies: "westerners eat cows, who are you to say we can't eat dolphins?"
And in a sense he's right, I mean, who are we to impose our views and morals on the rest of the world? Ok, there are all the health reasons they mentioned in the film -Hg poisoning- that I won't go into here, but I can attest to their severity having done my master's thesis on heavy metal contaminants in marine mammals (small delphinids in fact). So yeah, even if I wasn't emotionally attached to these animals, no way in hell would I eat one knowing what I know about the toxins accumulated in their bodies!

So to wrap it up, this is a very interesting film and attention does need to be brought to the subject (so kudos there to the film makers for having the courage to get it done, and in those conditions!), but I'm pretty sure in most of the Western world they'll just be preaching to the choir. We bought into the "save the dolphin" campaign a generation ago, and I don't know anyone who's against it. If you're worried about violence in the film, yes it is violent. But not nearly as gory as I was afraid it was going to be. It actually shows a lot less of the massacre footage than I expected. Most of the movie is background bio on Ric O'Barry (of Flipper fame) and a making-of (plays out kind of like a detective caper) for those short minutes they show of the actual massacre.

It's definitely a very powerful film, and if you are the slightest bit emotional (or more, like me), good luck keeping a dry eye!

For more info you've got Wikipedia, the movie's official website  http://thecovemovie.com/, and a "take-action" site with guidlines on what you can do to help (and interesting info on heavy metal levels in the fish we eat): http://www.takepart.com/thecove/

Against all odds (and after much debate and many threats) the film was shown in the Tokyo International Film Festival this year, you can read about it here on the movie's blog (go further down int he blog to read director Psihoyos' first-hand tale of the fear and nervousness of returning to Japan for the festival knowing there were several arrest warrants out for him).

I guess the dvd will be out soon in the US, so it's probably no longer available on the big screen... but for anyone in Europe you're still in time to watch it at it's most impressive!

(photos from the movie's website press-kit)


  1. OMG - this is very important work. Do you know anything about this, Chris?

  2. Depends on what "this" is! :p

    I'd heard about this film earlier in the year and I've been keeping my eye out for it hope desperately it would "come to a theatre near me" (with documentary films you never know.

    And I did know about the Japanese influence at the International Whaling Comission (among smaller countries) and their "scientific" captures and that they still sold whale meat and dolphin meat that was most probably toxic due to heavy metal levels.

    And I think I've read about dolphin massacres in Japan before....

    All this information has been out there for some time, it just took some very motivated people to put it together in a format that would inspire a wide variety of people. Images and a narrative work much better at moving and influencing people than cold hard facts on a piece of paper... Let's hope they get results!

  3. I've never heard of this film. I'll be keep any eye out as well.

  4. Cris! I've missed you so! I know I've been a real recluse, but I'm definitely back now. I need my blogging buddies, just so the is some sort of normalcy in my life.

    This documentary comes out on DVD next week. Heartbreaking, but necessary. Yes, they pull out all emotions to get the point across, but it is an important point.

    I've been reading back all I've missed and I love all the Fishy Friday posts. Grouper is the favorite fish here in Florida, but recent years have brought restrictions and many restaurants have been caught trying to pass off other fish to tourists. Personally, I prefer others and seldom order grouper.

    Looks like you're having a great time in Belgium despite not going to the movies.

    Okay, on to important things like TV! Big Bang Theory is and has been my favorite since the first episode. This isn't just because my dog's name is Sheldon. I watch every episode at least three times on the DVR. Love Castle and the Halloween episode just cracked me up! Fringe is fascinating, Flash Forward has my close attention, V I'm still waiting on, and one you didn't mention was The Middle. I'm putting it up there with Big Bang, this truly dysfunctional family brings on the big laughs from me almost as much as Big Bang does. My two favorite shows though are So You Think You Can Dance (talent abounds!) and Amazing Race. Almost cried when the Harlem Globetrotters came in last and were eliminated. Loved those boys.

    Happy Holidays dear friend, can't wait to see what you'll be posting this month.

  5. Hey Rhonda, wow what a comment! Welcome back! Seems like you have indeed been going through the backlog!

    You're coming out of a "recluse" period right when I seem to be going into one... For the past couple of weeks I haven't had much time to write (notice the absence of Fishy Friday 10 days ago) or even do much blog reading... And I'm not sure how much I'll be able to do between now and the holidays... :o(

    Busy, busy, busy! Other than my work I've been trying to get as much done on my "things to do in Belgium" list before I leave in... only 2 1/2 weeks! :p

  6. I'm glad to hear you'll be home in time for Christmas and make sure you get that Belgium checklist completed.

    I hope your recluse period doesn't last as long as mine did!

    I did see you're hopping a plane to Rain's though — I'll meet you there! That rainbow was amazing!

  7. @Rhonda: I don't think my checklist for Belgium will ever be fully completed... amazing for such a small country! ;o)

    Pefect! See you on THE Island then! :p (but pack your cold-weather gear!)

  8. I really hope this movie does some good. The Japanese need to realize they cannot eat the entire ocean!

    I am no longer buying, or eating, large predator fish -

  9. fingers crossed!

    I don't eat much fish myself, but that's mainly because neither my Dad (family chef) nor I are very good at preparing it! :p

    a shame really when you consider we live on the coast...

  10. Okay, simple question — what is cold-weather gear? lol

    We did have a huge storm come through last night though. Lots of rain and winds up to 60 mph. BUT, the air conditioner is still running!

  11. well if I remember aright... AC is a necessary piece of equipment down there to deal with the HUMIDITY! lol!

    "warm weather gear"? well that's all that stuff you put one on top of the other on top of the other on top of the other etc ad nauseam like an onion. Preferably with long sleeves! ;o)


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