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The Cove

USA 2009
Directed by
Louie Psihoyos
94 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

The Cove

Although The Cove, a documentary about the slaughter of dolphins in a small Japanese village of Taiji, has been over-rated as some kind of real life espionage thriller as a plea for animal rights Louie Psihoyos’ Oscar-winning documentary will hopefully achieve its stated aim of shaming the Japanese Government into putting a stop to the abominable practice.

The "harvesting'  is fuelled by two markets. Firstly, the world-wide marine park industry  - the modern equivalent of the circus in which dolphins are trained to perform tricks for gawping plebeians. The second and the more tawdry, is the demand for a substitute for whale meat. The first is of greater importance because it is the real money spinner and, as a result, so many non-Japanese countries are complicit.

Here Richard O'Barry is central. He's the man who trained five dolphins for use on the hit television show Flipper whose popularity eventually spawned places like Sea World. O'Barry came to realize how intelligent the animals were and how wrong it was to keep them in captivity, eventually dedicating himself to their liberation.

The film describes how O'Barry with director Psihoyos and their team of eco-warriors penetrated the tight security around the Taiji cove where the slaughter takes place each year and obtained forbidden footage of the killing. It’s ugly behaviour and deserves to be stopped but equally if not more importantly the practice of treating dolphins as sources of entertainment needs to end. Psihoyos, however, has trouble establishing his priorities in this respect as the film focuses mainly on the former aspect (and if the mercury levels are as high as is claimed it will presumably stop of its own accord) although acknowledging that the latter is the real driver of the practice.

Over and above the main agenda The Cove has another aspect of interest and this is the profound remorse of O'Barry, a man who by his own admission lived high on the proceeds of the Flipper TV series but who came to realize the error of his ways. Let’s hope that he sees his dream of liberating dolphins come true sooner rather than later – for his sake and theirs.




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