Seems like every year a documentary film comes out telling us how messed up the world is and how everything we’re doing is wrong or is going to kill us. Although the subject matter of The Cove is far from preachy, its message is really a shocking call to action. World famous (and later infamous) dolphin trainer Ric O’Barry’s work on the 1964 TV hit “Flipper” inspired future generations of dolphin lovers. However the more in demand dolphins became, the more their capture is considered a cold hard money game. Yet, The Cove’s intent was not to focus solely on the “Dolphin Trade” (which in itself is a problem worthy of a documentary) but to make the world aware of a far greater atrocity that is wrong on so many levels. While I don’t watch (or write-up for that matter) many documentaries, this one just compelled me to do so.
Taking a short but important “how we got here” introduction, filmmaker and now Dolphin activist O’Barry tells the tail, err…tale of Flipper and the effect if had on the world. Soon after the success of the show, “Dolphinariums” started opening up everywhere. Before long, the idea of petting and swimming with dolphins became a billion dollar industry. And that’s when O’Barry started to wonder about the monster he created. But the first thing that really set Ric off was to see the death of Cathy (one of the dolphins used as “Flipper”) right in his very arms. Since then he’s been devoutly devoted to dolphin release programs…both legal and illegal.
But like any investigation, looking for something can find you in a whole world you never knew existed. O’Barry’s outcries against the dolphin trade have nothing on what was going on in Taiji, Japan. This film is titled The Cove to specifically address the horrors taking place in this one little secluded area where on the surface it appears to be just another dolphin “model search” for aquariums but there are far more sinister deeds at work.
Cloaked in both a natural fortress of steep mountainous cliffs and protected at great measure by the Taiji governing bodies, The Cove itself keeps secret the atrocities befalling all the rest of the dolphins not selected for aquarium life. In this cove, thousands (yes thousands) of dolphins are slaughtered for food. While this may seem like a necessary evil to provide sustenance for the inhabitants of the town, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
First off, all these dolphins are killed (without even the people living in the town knowing anything about this) and sold to fish markets. But the problem is that literally there is no market for dolphin meat. So why and how do they keep this going? Well, people who don’t want to eat dolphin meat still will eat whale meat, and since dolphins are part of the whale variety, they are disguised and packaged as “whale meat”.
If that’s not bad enough, you have the obscene and deadly mercury content of these creatures in every square inch of their bodies. You can’t cook out mercury like you can bacteria so it is a health concern of serious measure. Now here’s where the shit keeps piling up. The IWC (International Whaling Conference) has delegates from nearly every country on the planet and in front of all of them, Japan is lying about and denying what they’re doing. They are even saying that killing off the dolphins a justified action as it is a way of “pest control” to keep from consuming too many fish. Well news flash (and maybe it’s because I’m buying into the argument that I’m agreeing with it) but humans do a hell of a lot more damage to the supply of fish. They even brought it up in the animated film Happy Feet…so then what? Are people going to cite Penguins as the depleter of the worlds fish supply?
Anyway, back to the murders at The Cove, since the fishermen and parties at fault can’t sell dolphin meat on a level where it makes sense to continue or keep a profit, they are instead doling it out to lunch programs in the town and neighboring villages. And holy crap, I never knew what Mercury poisoning was (the DVD special feature about Mercury Poisoning is highly recommended as it talks more about the horrors of that than was shown in the film). O’Barry shows video of cases from 50’s era children born in Minamata and it is terrifying stuff, but to find out it’s not a far gone epidemic is scarier still. People all over Japan (eating dolphin, whale, tuna…really anything) are in danger of Mercury poisoning. Holy Shit you say??…holy shit is right…or more like “Sotareyama”…or even “Matakaio” would suffice.
So they’ll keep The Cove heavily guarded, shrouded in secrecy and keep up the rouse that the dolphin drives are for sales of worthy specimens to aquariums where they can fetch over 150,000 a piece. But where’s a story without a hero. Well let’s go back to Mr. O’Barry and his team of equally enraged and devoted associates. Assembling a crack team of divers, A/V experts and the like they attempt to infiltrate The Cove. I don’t want to spoil what is probably the most tense part of the film but its impressive what they went through to get evidence of what happens in the cove. You’ll just have to watch it to find out what happens:)
G-S-T Ruling: 4/5
G-S-T Seal of Approval: GRANTED