Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Review: The Cove

I don't usually review movies on this blog. First of all, I have my hands full just reviewing books. Secondly, to my mind, most movies can't rise beyond the point of brainless entertainment.

Thus it is that when I'm writing this review of The Cove, I find myself in desperate straits.I want to be able to reach out from behind the screen and grab you, and make you watch this movie, (It's only $1.99 on Amazon Instant Video) but in my desire to do so I don't want to sound too earnest, too rabid, for fear that you'd be scared off.

So let me back off a bit and talk about my relationship with dolphins. I never grew up watching Flipper, nor am I particularly a dolphin fan. I've never swam with one, and probably wouldn't pay money to do so. On the other hand, I'm a sailing skipper, and on many occasions have had dolphins swim with my boat, besides my boat, or play with the bow(s) of my boat while sailing. I've also seen whales in San Francisco Bay while sailing. If the sight of these creatures in the wild leave you unmoved, you're not a candidate to see this movie.

The Cove is about dolphins. Specifically, it's about the whaling community of Taiji, in Japan. Every September, Taiji engages in a slaughter of dolphins, killing over 2,000 animals. This movie is about the slaughter of the dolphins, the method by which they have been slaughtered, and the politics behind the International Whaling Commission which permits the slaughter to still happen.

I'm not much of an animal activist: I've killed animals for others to eat in my time, and if I had to kill animals in order to eat meat I wouldn't have any trouble doing so. But dolphins are on top of the food chain, which means that they accumulate more mercury in their bodies than just about any other kind of marine animal you could eat. The results of the dolphin slaughter is for no good reason at all: a lot of the meat produced gets distributed throughout Japan and sold as whale meat (which isn't a lie --- dolphins are pretty much whales). Taiji men and women have 5 times as much mercury found in their hair as other Japanese. These folks aren't just destroying intelligent mammals, they're also poisoning themselves and their fellow citizens (and children) as a result.

But why do they do so? It turns out that part of the catch is also to produce captive dolphins for the various Seaquariums around the world. That's right. If you've ever visited SeaWorld, or taken your kids to one, you're part of the problem. While dolphin meat is not highly desired (see above), captive dolphins generate $150,000 each in revenue for the town of Taiji, and the slaughter of the remaining dolphins is just a by product.

The film follows a group of activists led by Ric O'barry, who used to be a dolphin trainer for the above mentioned TV series. He describes his change from animal trainer to activist, and all sorts of high technology comes into play for capturing the footage in this movie, which obviously the Japanese officials tried very hard to prevent from coming into existence. Underwater cameras, cameras disguised as rocks, blimps, night vision cameras, and a team of skin divers come into play. It's technically impressive and there's not a little bit of suspense as they play cat and mouse with the authorities.

This movie won the academy award in 2009 for best documentary. It deserves it. I'm not the emotional type (and as mentioned, am fond of eating animals) and the movie touched everything about me that made want to go out and join the activists. Highly recommended. Watch it, and you may never be able to visit Seaworld again. But if you watch only one movie this year, watch this one. Please.
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