Monday, January 26, 2009

A Wrap-Up of NEWS from Sundance Film Festival - Day 8

By Mark J. Palmer, Associate Director,
International Marine Mammal Project, Earth Island Institute, and the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition

With “The Cove” Triumphant at Sundance, the Real Work Begins, January 26, 2009

Film critics continue to praise “The Cove,” after the documentary won the American Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday night.

Andrew O’Hehir of accorded “The Cove” his grand prize for a documentary at Sundance, saying:

This devastating, beautifully shot and occasionally hilarious filmmaking debut from longtime National Geographic photographer Louie Psihoyos wins on "Inconvenient Truth" points, as the Sundance film most likely to shift public opinion. James Bond meets Jacques Cousteau in this cloak-and-dagger investigation of the dolphin slaughter of Taiji, Japan -- and along the way Psihoyos crafts a moving portrait of former "Flipper" trainer Ric O'Barry, now an activist seeking to destroy the entire "dolphinarium" business. This was a tough call, in that other Sundance docs on my list were more coherent and more rigorous. But documentary audiences are looking for passion, emotion and memorable images, and "The Cove" supplies plenty to spare while making its case, which goes well beyond dolphins to encompass the overall fate of the world's oceans.

For the full article, go to:

The Japan Times, the only Japanese newspaper that has covered the dolphin hunts, said:

Dolphin slaughter film a hit at Sundance

Standing ovations greeted the judges' verdict Sunday that the documentary "The Cove" had won the prestigious U.S. Audience Award at the 25th annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

The feature-length film documenting the annual killing with spears and knives of more than 2,500 dolphins driven into a cove at Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, was selected as one of 16 finalists from 879 submissions in the category.

Directed by former National Geographic photographer Louis Psihoyos, "The Cove" was made secretly throughout 2007 using underwater microphones and high-definition cameras disguised as rocks, and with a camouflaged camera crew hidden on headlands.

It followed ongoing coverage of the issue in The Japan Times, including a Nov. 30, 2005, feature headlined "Secret dolphin slaughter defies protest" that went on to win the U.S. Humane Society's coveted International Genesis Award for its writer, Boyd Harnell, and the newspaper's Nature/Science editor.

Speaking at the festival, founded by Oscar-winner Robert Redford and now the world's most prestigious for independent films, Psihoyos expressed hope that "The Cove" soon has worldwide distribution. "Once the Japanese people see 'The Cove,' I believe they will put a stop to the most ghastly slaughter of animals on the planet — animals whose meat is dangerously high in mercury," he said.

Echoing those comments, Ric O'Barry, director of Save Japan Dolphins coalition and a marine mammal expert who trained dolphins for the famed "Flipper" TV series, and is featured in the film, told the audience: "We love Japan and we love the Japanese people and they have a right to know the truth. Up to now, the lone voice in Japan has been through The Japan Times, with guys like reporter Boyd Harnell and editor Andrew Kershaw getting the word out."

As he spoke, he was flanked by rock star Sting, whom O'Barry said would be taking up the campaigning against Japan's dolphin slaughter. It has been reported that more than 20,000 dolphins are killed in Japanese waters each year.

“The Cove’s” Director, Louie Psihoyos, says, “When you’re looking for the top award at Sundance from the perspective of attracting a potential audience, or distributors who are looking to fill up seats, The Audience Award is the most cherished of prizes. It was my first Sundance but I’m told by our producer, Fisher Stevens, who has been coming here for over a decade that he has never seen a standing ovation for a documentary – well, the audience has spoken.”

Psihoyos continued: “Taiji is a town whose dark dirty secret will now be exposed to the world. I hope the thugs who are led by the town mayor and have taken control of the National Park in the center of town will give it back to the people. Right now, one of the most beautiful coves in the world is being used for one of the most ghastly crimes against nature, as well as a crime against the Japanese people.”

Richard O’Barry and I want to thank all those who contributed to the effort to make “The Cove” possible, especially Director Louie Psihoyos and Producer Jim Clark.

Also thanks to Louie and his wife Vicky for their very generous hospitality while we were in Park City for Sundance. Simon Hutchins also deserves credit for sending along photos for this Blog and taking me to photograph THE ROCK. The rest of the film crew was very helpful to us during our time.

Congratulations to all of them for a job well done!

We’d also like to thank those from Earth Island and family who came to Sundance to help out: David Phillips and Pam McCann, Lincoln O’Barry, Macdonald Hawley and Julia Hawley. Thanks to Kristy Wingfield, our webmaster, for posting this timely Blog, and Earth Island Institute for hosting this site.

A thank you to all the people in Japan (and there are many) who oppose the killing of dolphins and whales and are working with us (often anonymously) to end this tragedy. They are very brave people.

And finally, thank you, dear readers, for keeping up at Sundance via our Blog. It has been an exciting and fun time for us all.

WATCH THIS SPACE FOR FUTURE INFORMATION ON SCREENINGS OF “THE COVE”. We will be posting updates regularly here and on the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition website about our campaign to save the dolphins and screenings of “The Cove.”

Want to Help Save Japan’s Dolphins?

If you have money, please make a generous donation to our Coalition. If you have time, please write letters and e-mails.

Above all, please help us get the word out for people MUST SEE “THE COVE.”

The Save Japan Dolphins Coalition includes In Defense of Animals, Ocean Care of Switzerland, Earth Island Institute, Campaign Whale of the UK, Animal Welfare Institute, and Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Latest NEWS from Sundance Film Festival - Day 7

“The Cove” Wins the Sundance Audience Award for American Documentary!
January 24, 2009

By Mark J. Palmer, Associate Director,
International Marine Mammal Project, Earth Island Institute, and the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition

Day 7

I just got a call from Ric O’Barry, who is walking down main street in Park City, Utah. He called to tell me “The Cove” won an award at Sudance!

What a great way to end a week and a half of frenzied film promotion, media interviews, and exciting film showings at the Sundance Film Festival!

Tonight, “The Cove”, which had standing ovations at every showing during the run of the Sundance Film Festival, received the Sundance American Audience Award: Documentary for 2009!

The Audience Award is based on voting by Sundance audiences after each film. Clearly, the audiences at “The Cove” were excited and engaged by the film, and their voting showed how important they feel “The Cove” is.

It is likely that this award will help increase the profile of “The Cove” as negotiations go forward with potential distributors.

Click here to see Director of “The Cove”, Louie Psihoyos, talking about the making of his award-winning film.

Sting and his wife Trudy attended a showing of “The Cove” at Sundance and pledged their assistance to the effort. Sting (right) with Ric O’Barry of the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition. Photo by Simon Hutchins, Oceanic Preservation Society


Please consider a donation to the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition and Earth Island Institute. Your tax-deductible donation will help Ric O’Barry and our Coalition fight to end the killing of dolphins and whales in Japan and elsewhere, and fight the inhumane captures and captivity of dolphins worldwide.

The Save Japan Dolphins Coalition receives no funds from sales or viewings of “The Cove.”

Click here to Donate To Help the Cause.

We also need your help to make sure the government of Japan heeds the message of “The Cove” – save Japan’s dolphins! Get active, write a letter, send an e-mail!

Take Action Now! Click here.

And be sure to tell your family and friends to spread the word about “The Cove”. Our website will feature updates as “The Cove” is shown in public worldwide.

The Save Japan Dolphins Coalition includes In Defense of Animals, Ocean Care of Switzerland, Earth Island Institute, Campaign Whale of the UK, Animal Welfare Institute, and Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan.

Ric O’Barry receives another standing ovation after a screening of “The Cove” at Sundance Film Festival. Photo by Simon Hutchins, Oceanic Preservation Society

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Latest NEWS from Sundance Film Festival - Day 6

By Mark J. Palmer, Associate Director, International Marine Mammal Project, Earth Island Institute, and the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition

Day 6
More Tears, More Standing Ovations, But U.S. Still Trying to Betray the Whales, January 23, 2009

Sundance Louie & Dave: “Louie Psihoyos (left), Director of “The Cove,” and David Phillips, Director of Earth Island Institute, discuss strategy to save the dolphins over dinner.”
Copyright Mark J. Palmer

“They love us, man!” says Ric O’Barry, Director of the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition. “It’s all good!”

Ric just called and told me they got yet ANOTHER STANDING OVATION at the showing of “The Cove” in Salt Lake City yesterday afternoon. This audience was a particularly eclectic one. Some were just regular movie audience members, some were high school kids with ties to the Sundance Film Institute, and a number were from local dive clubs. They all loved “The Cove”!

And late last night in another packed theater at Sundance, YET ANOTHER STANDING OVATION! Chalk up five public showings with six complete standing ovations (Both Louie and Ric received separate standing ovations during the second public showing).

Actor and musician Sting and his wife Trudy attended the showing last night. Sting was at Sundance with a documentary on the plight of native people in Ecuador, where Chevron left a toxic legacy in the rainforest after drilling for oil. Sting “was blown away” by “The Cove”, according to Ric, and offered to help the effort to stop the dolphin killing in Japan.

I suggested Ric go outside and stick his head in the snow. Can’t get a swelled head!?

The positive media coverage continues. Yesterday, Bloomberg News Agency and the online Huffington Post interviewed Ric and Louie. Plus the Salt Lake Tribune and a local TV station. Ric is having trouble keeping track of the media interviews.

Strong reviews keep coming out. The prestigious Economist had this to say:

Underwater treasures
Jan 22nd 2009

From The Economist print edition

Documentary makers look for the next eco-blockbuster

“The Cove” follows Richard O’Barry, who trained the dolphins in “Flipper”, a popular 1960s television show. Ever since, Mr. O’Barry has worked to stop dolphins from being captured and sent to amusement parks. In “The Cove” he focuses on trying to prevent the slaughter of 23,000 dolphins a year in a bay off Taiji, Japan. Local fishermen, who believe dolphins are responsible for their shrinking catch, do all they can to thwart Mr. O’Barry’s efforts.

For full story, go to:

And a very nice article indeed from the Bloomberg news agency:

Flipper’s Trainer Crusades Against Dolphin Slaughter in Japan

By Rick Warner

Jan. 23 (Bloomberg) -- The moment Flipper died in his arms, Richard O’Barry was transformed from a dolphin trainer into an activist determined to free captive dolphins around the world.

That was 39 years ago. Today, the man who trained Flipper for the popular 1960s TV series is crusading against the slaughter of dolphins in Japan, captured by hidden cameras in a chilling documentary called “The Cove” that’s being shown at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

About 23,000 dolphins are killed in Japan every year, O’Barry said. The film, directed by nature photographer and environmentalist Louie Psihoyos, focuses on Taiji, a Japanese village where 2,300 dolphins are speared to death every year for meat. A dead dolphin sells for about $600, while captured ones can go for as much as $200,000 apiece to aquariums and dolphin parks.

“What’s happening in Taiji is a horror show,” O’Barry, 69, said in an interview at a Park City cafe. “I won’t sleep until it is stopped.”

O’Barry has been on a dolphin-protection crusade since the day in 1970 that Kathy, one of the dolphins that played Flipper, died in a steel tank at the Miami Seaquarium while he was holding her. O’Barry is convinced that Kathy was sick and depressed from being held in captivity and forced to do tricks for the TV show.

“Dolphins are extremely intelligent and they get bored to death when they have to do the same things over and over,” he said. “They have larger brains than their trainers and they’ve been around a lot longer than we have.”

‘Ocean’s Eleven’ Crew

The day after Kathy died, O’Barry flew from Miami to Bimini, where he was arrested for trying to free an enclosed dolphin. He said he had known for years that dolphins suffered in captivity, but did nothing about it because he was profiting from the system.

“I was probably the highest-paid animal trainer in the world,” O’Barry said. “I was buying a new Porsche every year, whether I needed one or not. Now I ride a bicycle.”

These days, O’Barry is concentrating on the slaughter in Taiji, which occurs daily from September to March in a heavily guarded cove. The documentary shows how a makeshift “Ocean’s Eleven” crew, including the married free-diving team of Mandy Rae-Cruickshank and Kirk Krack, secretly planted underwater cameras and hydrophones (cameras on land were hidden in rocks) to document the killing that O’Barry claims has been covered up by local authorities and the Japanese government.

Bloody Cove

What they filmed was gruesome. After luring dolphins into the cove with the sound of banging poles, the fishermen repeatedly spear the helpless mammals until the water turns blood red. Some are captured and sent to water parks, where they’re trained to bounce balls on their noses and jump through hoops.

“Once you see what goes on in Taiji, you never forget it,” said O’Barry, wearing a baseball cap with the insignia of the Earth Island Institute, one of several organizations trying to save Japanese dolphins.

O’Barry is a marked man in Taiji, so he often wears disguises to avoid security officials.
“I’ve got a long black wig and a dress that I sometimes wear,” he said. “I’ve been there so many times that I’m immediately recognized unless I’m in disguise.” O’Barry blames the Japanese government for the massacre. He said officials tell the fishermen that dolphins are “pests” who eat so many small fish that they deplete the local supply.

“That’s a big lie, of course,” O’Barry said. “The reason there are fewer fish is because of overfishing.”

Mercury Contamination

According to the film, much of the dolphin meat sold in Japan is contaminated with mercury or mislabeled as another kind of seafood. O’Barry said publicity about the mercury problem finally forced Taiji schools to stop serving dolphin meat.

“Killing dolphins for meat is not only wrong, it’s unhealthy,” he said.

Psihoyos said the movie cost $2.5 million, almost all of it paid by Netscape co-founder Jim Clark. Clark is also the primary financial backer of the Oceanic Preservation Society, which Psihoyos founded in 2005 to publicize the destruction of the world’s oceans.

“We’re not trying to save the whole planet, just 70 percent of it,” the director said.

For more information on the dolphin slaughter, contact

(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Rick Warner in Park City, Utah, at

Last Updated: January 23, 2009 00:01 EST

E! Online had this to say:

Sundance Notebook: Hanging With Zooey; Hayden's Pet Cause
Jan. 22, 2009 5:22 PM PST by JOSH GROSSBERG

Meanwhile, on the documentary side, a film addressing Hayden Panettiere's pet cause, saving the dolphins, has been making waves this week at Sundance.

The Cove, from National Geographic photographer turned documentary filmmaker Louie Psihoyos and producer Fisher Stevens, follows the director and his team as they launch a guerrilla mission to record and expose the slaughter of thousands of bottlenose dolphins in a hidden cove in a Japanese fishing village.

"I started out wanting to do the most beautiful underwater doc that was ever made, but instead we ended up on this sort of Stephen King horror-film epic," director Psihoyos told E! News.

The documentary also explores the actions Psihoyos and her cohorts took that subsequently led to their arrest.

"Dolphins have become trained hacks for our amusement, and at some point I became an activist," said the helmer. "One of my good friends back in Colorado was [author] Hunter Thompson, and he said never be afraid to put yourself in the story. He made a career out of that. And we wanted to do something that was meaningful."

For full story, go to:

And this just in: The US delegation to the International Whaling Commission, along with delegates from Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and Denmark are meeting this weekend in Hawai’i, in a meeting CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC AND THE ENVIRONMENTAL COMMUNITY to continue negotiations to reach a deal with Japan to take the pressure off Japan’s continued killing of whales in Antarctica, off the Japanese coast, and trading in whale meat with Iceland and Norway. The Obama Administration has not yet halted the Bush juggernaut to kill off the whales.

Sundance awards will be announced on Saturday.

We need your help to SAVE JAPAN’s DOLPHINS!

Our Coalition cannot do this alone. We need your help to make sure “The Cove” is shown in Japan by any means necessary.

And we need your help to make sure other governments put pressure on Japan to end the slaughter, rather than negotiating deals to approve whaling and killing of dolphins under the guise of “saving the International Whaling Commission” or reaching a compromise “with all stakeholders.”

If you have money, please make a generous donation to our Coalition. If you have time, please write letters.

Above all, please help us get the word out for people MUST SEE “THE COVE.”

The Save Japan Dolphins Coalition includes In Defense of Animals, Ocean Care of Switzerland, Earth Island Institute, Campaign Whale of the UK, Animal Welfare Institute, and Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan.

The Latest NEWS from Sundance Film Festival - Day 5

By Mark J. Palmer, Associate Director,
International Marine Mammal Project, Earth Island Institute, and the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition

Day 5

I Meet the Rock, While Ric Gets Another Standing Ovation at Salt Lake City, January 22, 2009

COVE Movie Image: “Champion free-diver Mandy-Rae Cruikshanks graces the movie poster for “The Cove” at Sundance Film Festival.”
Photo courtesy of Oceanic Preservation Society

Meet Justin Lowe, a former Earth Island Institute staffer who edited Earth Island Journal and worked on issues involving Tibet and the Himalayas for many years. He is now in film school in Los Angeles and has been attending the Sundance Film Festival for the past four years.

Justin called us to say he had attended one of the public screening of “The Cove” at Sundance and congratulated us on the do
cumentary. He said, in four years of attending Sundance films, he has NEVER seen such an enthusiastic reaction from a Sundance audience as he witnessed at “The Cove” showing.

“We’re on a roll!” says Ric O’Barry, Director of the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition.

Meanwhile, yesterday, Ric, Louie and “The Cove” had their third public screening and got a THIRD STANDING OVATION at the e
nd. This was at a small, packed theater in Salt Lake City (about 200 seats). The Salt Lake City attendees are a very different audience than the Park City crowds, so this was a very important and useful sign of the universality of “The Cove’s” appeal.

Ric, Louie, and “
The Cove” are going back to the same theater this afternoon for another public showing, this time to high school students affiliated with the Sundance Film Institute. I expect another wild crowd reaction.

Online at Salon, Louie and Ric’s recorded interview “about this extraordinary documentary” (Salon’s words) has just been posted. You can listen to or read it here:

SALON.COM Interview on “The Cove”: Who Killed Flipper?

“The Cove” is one of the hottest movies at Sundance and still retains its amazing emotional impact on audiences.

Bidding for distribution of “The Cove” is going on as
you read this – the main purpose in appearing at Sundance is to find a distributor to get “The Cove” out to theaters around the world. Both foreign and domestic distribution companies have expressed interest.

One of the fascinating
aspects of “The Cove” film is the way that Louie and his Oceanic Preservation Society crew managed to get some of the spectacular footage of dolphins, in high definition, no less.

The cove in the town of Taiji, Japan, is a real cove. It
is part of a Japanese National Park, but all access is denied to the public and to cameras by the Japanese government. Locked gates topped by razor wire rolls cut off all pathways. Access from the ocean is cut off by a series of buoyed lines. There are even large plastic tarps strung between trees to prevent filming with telephoto lenses. This is the cove where dolphins are killed for their meat.

How then to get film for a docu
mentary about the dolphins?

Louie and his talented crew got a series of high definition cameras and camouflaged them. The lengths to which they went are very impressive. They asked a scenery designer at Industrial Light & Magic to make them some fake rocks. These are made of foam, and are hollow inside. These fake rocks were then painted to look like rocks around the cove.

Sundance Rock: “It looks just like an ordinary rock one would see on the beach of Taiji, but this rock holds a secret.”
Copyright Mark J. Palmer

How to get the rocks and their secret cameras into place for filming? The sequence of Louie and his crew getting into the cove is the most exciting, heart-thumping part of the documentary.

Louie Psihoyos brought one of the rocks to Sundance, and I got to see it myself, as crewmember Simon Hutchins, who directed the Taiji e
xpeditions that gathered the clandestine footage, explained its workings. Amazing! Every well-appointed home ought to have a few of these rocks. What will they think of next?

Sundance Simon & Rock: “Inside the innocent rock, a high-definition camera is hidden to film in the secret cove of Taiji, Japan. Simon Hutchins, Director of Expeditions for “The Cove”, shows how the hollow rock works.”
Copyright Mark J. Palmer

In addition to cameras, Louie and his crew managed to place hydrophones on the bottom of the cove, to record the sounds of the dying dolphins, through the services of world champion free-diver Mandy-Rae Cruikshanks and Kirk Krack. (It is Mandy-Rae’s lovely form in her wetsuit that is featured on “The Cove” poster prepared for Sundance. She also provides several of the most poignant moments in the film.)

Hidden cameras and even a toy helicopter for aerial shots took further footage.

Sundance awards will be announced on Saturday.

The killing of dolphins in “the cove” in Taiji is scheduled to begin again this coming September.


Please write a letter, send an e-mail, and make a generous donation to help the dolphins:

The Save Japan Dolphins Coalition includes In Defense of Animals, Ocean Care of Switzerland, Earth Island Institute, Campaign Whale of the UK, Animal Welfare Institute, and Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Latest NEWS from Sundance Film Festival - Day 4

By Mark J. Palmer, Associate Director,
International Marine Mammal Project, Earth Island Institute, and the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition

Day 4
Your Humble Correspondent Flies Back to California, but O’Barry is On the Job, plus More Rave Reviews, January 21, 2009

Well, it has been fun, but your humble albeit dedicated correspondent is sitting in the Salt Lake City Airport waiting to fly
back home to California and, you know, save the dolphins and whales.

As we say at Earth Island’s International Marine Mammal Project: Another day, another dolphin…

Fortunately, Ric O’Barry, Director of
Save Japan Dolphins Coalition and Dedicated Beach Bum, remains in town to continue to answer questions at showings of “The Cove” and do media interviews, along with Director Louie Psihoyos and the crew from the documentary. Ric will keep me informed of future events at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, where “The Cove” is up against some great competition.

Sundance Ric: “Ric O’Barry talks to members of the audience after a showing of “The Cove” at Sundance Film Festival.”
Copyright Mark J. Palmer

Tonight, for example, Ric, Louie and friends travel to Salt Lake City for the next showing (number 4) of “The Cove.” It will be very interesting to see the reaction, as the Salt Lake City audience will likely be very different from the one in the resort town of Park City.

I’ve introduced Louie and his “Cove” crew in this Blog. I thought it might be useful to give you even more info. You can go to “The Cove’s” official movie website:

The Cove Movie

You can also go to find out more about the Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS), which Louie and his colleagues founded to help bring the ocean’s problems to the public’s attention through media and documentaries.

As Louie explains, they were looking for a mission statement for OPS, and decided that focus was important, so they came up with: “We’re not trying to save the whole world; only 70% of it.”

Oceanic Preservation Society

Outstanding reviews continue to come out online and in newspapers and magazines about “The Cove.” Here is an excellent example from LAist:

Laist at Sundance: Day 4
By Josh Tate in Arts & Events on January 20, 2009 4:00 PM

Luckily, my faith in filmmaking was resto
red when I saw what may have been the most powerful documentary in the festival, The Cove. As the film opens, we met Ric O'Barry. He is the man who almost singlehandedly introduced the notion of keeping dolphins in captivity when he helped popularize the television show, Flipper. Barry, in fact, captured all of the dolphins used in the show and ultimately became the first real dolphin trainer. Ever since then, though, he has waged war against dolphin captivity.

The cove of the film's title is in Taiji, Japan and is the world's most notorious dolphin capture site in the world. The cove lies along the dolphin's yearly migration path and every September fishing boats line the cove ready to catch and kill dolphins. Their methods are crude but effective. Because dolphin's
rely on their acoustic sense so strongly, the fisherman literally sink metal poles into the water and bang on them repeatedly, creating a wall of sound that the dolphins flee from right into the cove.

Once there, dolphin trainers from around the world wade into the water, examine all of the specimens and choose the ones they want to take back to their aquariums. Of course, not all of the dolphins are chosen. What happens to the remaining dolphins is almost unimaginably horrifying. They are herded into a separate, more hidden cove and butchered for meat. At the time of the filming, there was no video evidence of this slaughter. That is exactly what the filmmakers intend
ed to get.

Their method for doing so is ingeniously complex. Because the local Japanese authorities rigidly enforce all access to the hidden cove, the filmmakers decide to go undercover. They actually go to Industrial Light & Magic and have their fabricators create video housing units that look just like rocks. They also hire two of the world's best freedivers to secretly dive into the cove and plant acoustic microphones on the floor of the ocean. With military precision, they eventually get the footage they need.

Sundance Louie: “Louie Psihoyos, Director of “The Cove,” catches a rare moment of relaxation between media interviews and showings of his new documentary at Sundance. Prior to Sundance, Louie and his crew worked around the clock to edit “The Cove” so it would be ready for Sundance.”
Copyright Mark J. Palmer

Needless to say, the evidence they ultimately acquire is grotesque. So many dolphins are killed in the cove that the water actually turns a deep shade of red. Not even baby dolphins are spared as the fisherman gleefully spear them and wrest them aboard their ships. And watching it all is Ric O'Barry, the man who first helped capture dolphins in the wild. Throughout the entire movie, his eyes constantly seem rimmed with tears as if he cannot escape the pain that constantly lives with him.

The Cove makes many other salient points about the issue of the dolphin slaughter--the mercury toxicity of their meat, the corruption of the International Whaling Commission, the duplicity of the Japanese in refusing to acknowledge the trade in dolphin meat. The main crux of the film, though, is expressed in those moments when we can hear the dolphins screeching in the water as they are killed. The film ends on a small note of hope, but concludes with the fact that the dolphin hunt will begin again soon.

For the full article, go to:

Just a comment: It is indeed impressive how “The Cove” starts by focusing on the mystery of a small cove in Japan that is closed off to the public and all cameras, then links it to the much broader issues of our treatment of dolphins and fish, mercury pollution, bureaucratic double-talk, aquariums and swim-with-dolphins-programs, and how one man can make a difference, all wrapped up in a spy thriller like “Oceans 11” or a James Bond flick.

And this posted on National Post:

Sundance at half-time: The best so far
Posted: January 21, 2009, 1:58 AM by Chris Knight

The 2009 Sundance festival is half over, and though the economic downturn has resulted in a more restrained mood than in past years, the field of films is strong. Here of some of my favourites so far:

The Cove: I’ve never choked back tears at a documentary until now. Subject Rick O’Barry helped catch and train the dolphins that played Flipper in the 1960s TV series. Now he works to free them from fishermen in Taiji, Japan, who kill 23,000 annually, sparing only those sent to dolphinariums around the world. The title refers to a sheltered bay that doubling as a killing field, where the water turns red with the blood of cetaceans. Highly disturbing and completely unforgettable; an astonishingly powerful work.

For the full article, go to:

At each showing of “The Cove” (and every movie shown at Sundance that is in competition), ballots are handed out to the audience to vote on how much the film was liked. 4 is the highest rating. Apparently these ballots are totaled for the Audience’s Choice award at Sundance. In addition, of course, Sundance itself issues awards based on the criteria of judges panels.

“The Cove” has stiff competition, with, of course, many of the finest filmmakers in the world competing for attention at this snowy mountain town.

The Sundance 2009 Film Festival Awards will be announced on Saturday.


Well, by now, you should know the drill.

Ric O’Barry vows to go back to Taiji, Japan. The Save Japan Dolphins Coalition and our friends at the Oceanic Preservation Society vow to go back to Japan with “The Cove” to show it all over the country. It is likely that the Japanese government will ban or at least discourage showings of the film, in which case the Internet and private venues will have to be used.

All this costs money.

YOU CAN HELP make sure “The Cove” gets a huge Japanese audience.

YOU CAN ALSO HELP by making sure action is taken by the Japanese government to save Japan’s dolphins.

The Save Japan Dolphins Coalition includes In Defense of Animals, Ocean Care of Switzerland, Earth Island Institute, Campaign Whale of the UK, Animal Welfare Institute, and Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Latest NEWS from Sundance Film Festival - Day 3

By Mark J. Palmer, Associate Director,
International M
arine Mammal Project, Earth Island Institute, and the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition

Sundance Cove Crew: “Louie Psihoyos, Director of “The Cove”, introduces the cast and crew behind his documentary after the second public screening at Sundance.”
Copyright Mark J. Palmer

Day 3
Morning: “The Cove” Airs for the Public as President Obama Assumes his Office, January 20, 2009

Will President Barack Obama be the best environmental President we have ever had?

In Washington DC this morning, President George Bush left town with his Administration, at last! Over the past eight years, the Bush Administration has been the most aggressive and effective government for destroying the entire Earth that this country has ever seen.

Whales and dolphins have suffered immensely, as President Bush killed the moratorium on drilling for oil offshore of the United States West and East Coasts (upheld by every other US President since Richard Nixon) and fought to weaken the Dolphin Safe tuna label so Mexico and other nations can label their tuna – stained by the blood of dolphins – as “Dolphin Safe.” The latter effort was blocked by Earth Island legal action in federal court, thank goodness, but Mexico has just filed a challenge before the World Trade Organization urging that international agency to brand the “Dolphin Safe” label as a barrier to free trade.

Little known to the public, the Bush Administration also launched negotiations at the International Whaling Commission to resolve differences between the government of Japan (which kills whales in violation of the world moratorium on commercial whaling, ostensibly for scientific research) and the conservation-minded nations. Unfortunately, the Bush negotiators are bending over backwards to reach some kind of deal to allow Japan to expand commercial whaling, including so-called “coastal whaling”, of which the Taiji dolphin drive hunts are the most conspicuous components.

In other words, Bush and Company have ended decades of US efforts to save whales and dolphins from the cru
el harpoons.

And will President Obama be the best environmental President we have ever had? That remains to be seen. The new President obviously has immense problems left behind by the Bush juggernaut – issues of war and peace, issues of the economy, issues of energy use. Numerous lobbyists, consultants, Representatives and Senators, and foreign nations will also pressure President Obama on all of these issues, including the inevitable voices saying “slow environmental regulations” and “we can’t afford to protect the environment.”

So, I go back to my original question: Will President Obama be the best environmental President we have ev
er had?

Indeed he will, IF YOU AND I HELP HIM! You can make a difference, and help make sure President Obama works to save our oceans, not destroy them!

Earth Island Institute and members of the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition are working with other environmental groups in Washingto
n DC to get the facts to the Obama Administration to put a stop to these deadly negotiations.

Shortly, we will be po
sting on our Action page information on how you can help the dolphins and whales with the new Administration!

Meanwhile, back at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, it is go go go as usual. Ric O’Barry, Director of the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition, and Louie Psihoyos, Director of the Oceanic Preservation Society and Director of “The Cove,” continue to give interviews to the media. Excellent reviews continue to come out.

Today is the second showing to the public of “The Cove” movie at Sundance, and I am packing my camera, my computer, and my Save Japan Dolphins Postcards to head over to the theater.

Day 3
Afternoon: “The Cove” Airs for the Public, But Your Humble Correspondent Was Too Late, January 20, 2009

I’m sitting outsid
e the Library Theater at Sundance, where I am missing “The Cove” showing for the public. I suppose I could have been obnoxious and pushed my way in, but I have already seen it, so I let the rest of the ticket holders who were late squeeze in ahead of me.

This is SUCH good news
for the movie, as the Library Theater is sold out – all 440 seats! As I noted on Day One at the premiere, the Temple Theater with a little more than 200 seats was also sold out, and Sundance patrons were turned away.

So, I am sitting in th
e hallway, waiting for the end of the movie so I can run in to take some photos of the filmmaker’s Q & A at the end for the Blog and for the film crew, which has been so generous to all of us with the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition.

I am not wasting my time. In addition to writing this Blog, I am passing out our Save Japan Dolphins Coalition postcards to everyone in the hall – other late ticket holders, staff of Sundance, and the myriad young kids marching back and forth through the hallways, as this is indeed the Park City Library and many kids are here to work on their crafts.

Any moment now, the film will end, the lights will come on, and I will duck into the theater to take my pictures…

Day 3

Evening: “The Cove” Airs for the Public and Gets Two Standing Ovations for Louie and Ric, January 20, 2009

Sundance Ric’s Ovation: “Ric O’Barry, Director of the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition, gets a standing ovation from the audience after the second public screening of “The Cove” at Sundance Film Festival.”
Copyright Mark J. Palmer

Hard to believe, but as I snuck into the last 5 minutes of “The Cove’s” second public screening at Sundance, my eyes teared up again at the ending!

I won’t go into details on the film. It would only spoil it for you. You have simply got to see it for yourself. Be prepared to cry, to laugh, and to be inspired.

As one viewer, a young documentary filmmaker himself, told me, this is the one film he has seen or heard about at Sundance that sent chills up his spine as he watched.

And the crowd went wild. I forgot to mention that during the ending credits at the premiere of “The Cove” on Sunday, whenever a name came on the screen (the director, the producer, the music writer, the editor, etc.), the crowd cheered for that person. They did so again at this screening today!

This time “The Cove” did not get one standing ovation. “THE COVE” GOT TWO STANDING OVATIONS! One when Director Louie Psihoyos was introduced and immediately after when Louie in turn introduced Ric O’Barry. Needless to say, there were many excited questions from the audience about what could be done.

Sundance Hug: “Louie Psihoyos, Director of “The Cove”, gets a huge hug and wears a huge grin following the second public screening of “The Cove” at Sundance Film Festival.”
Copyright Mark J. Palmer

One lady in the audience stated she would never bring her children to Sea World’s captive dolphin shows again. That got yet another round of applause.

Virtually all our Save Japan Dolphins postcards have been handed out.

Day 3
Evening Redux: Where is Kristen Stewart? January 20, 2009

And where, oh where, is Kristen Stewart?? You may know her from her star-making performance in the recent movie “Twilight”. I fell in love with her (as did every other male in the audience). And she was here in town, walking the streets of Park City with friends. And I missed her!

The sacrifices I make for dolphins!!???!

Oh well. Kristen, if you are reading this Blog (and I’m not sure why on Earth you would do that) know that I love you, and you have my heart forever. And tell your co-star to get a new hairstyle. (Vampires with bad hair are, y’know, like soooo uncool…)

If only I were about 30 years younger or 100,000 times richer than I am now…

On a more important note (Harumpfff!): Will “The Cove” be honored at Sundance with an award? The suspense is killing me…


At the risk of sounding like a broken record (Boy, THAT phrase sure dates me!), we cannot end the dolphin slaughter by ourselves. We really do need your help to save Japan’s dolphins (as well as dolphins and whales elsewhere in the world).

Many of us have been fighting for dolphins and whales for a good many years (almost 38 years for yours truly – even more for Ric O’Barry), and we have had some very significant victories. Far fewer whales are being killed anymore, mostly by Japan. Essentially no dolphins are being killed anymore by most world tuna fleets (in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, before we at Earth Island began our campaign in the late 1980’s, about 80,000 to 100,000 dolphins were being killed in the tuna fishery; last year fewer than 1,000 were reported killed.) But there is much more to do.

We need public support – volunteers, letter-writers, peaceful demonstrators, and donors – to save Japan’s dolphins.

The Save Japan Dolphins Coalition includes In Defense of Animals, Ocean Care of Switzerland, Earth Island Institute, Campaign Whale of the UK, Animal Welfare Institute, and Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Latest NEWS from Sundance Film Festival - Day 2

By Mark J. Palmer, Associate Director,
International Marine Mammal Project, Earth Island Institute, and the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition

Day 2
“The Cove” Airs for the Media and Industry, January 19, 2009

Another day and filmmaker Louie Psihoyos and Richard O’Barry have morning-to-evening media interviews. So far we have had reporters from The Economist,, and the local Provo Daily Herald stop by, and more on the way.

Last week,’s Andrew O’Hehir had this to say about “The Cove”:

“In the years
since training TV's Flipper (actually two different female dolphins), Ric O'Barry has become the globe's leading activist against dolphin captivity. "The Cove" captures O'Barry's extraordinary "Ocean's Eleven"-style raid on a secluded cove in the small Japanese coastal city of Taiji, where hundreds of dolphins are captured and sold every year -- and thousands more are gratuitously slaughtered. Louie Psihoyos' elegiac and enraging film connects the impotence of international bureaucracy, the bizarre cultural nationalism of Japan, the poisoning and decimation of the world's oceans, and the evidence that we are cruelly mistreating an intelligent and self-aware fellow species.”

Sundance Salon: “Ric O’Barry (left) of Save Japan Dolphins Coalition and “The Cove’s” Director Louie Psihoyos (center) are interviewed by at Sundance, one of dozens throughout the week.” Copyright Mark J. Palmer

Filmdom’s own Hollywood rag, Variety, posted a great review of “The Cove” online at:

The Cove

And photos from the movie, including the fine Cove Poster for Sundance, can be found here:

Internet Movie Database (IMDb)

And the rumor is that several studios have already expressed interest in distributing “The Cove.” We know long negotiations are ahead, but the excitement of finally getting this incredible documentary out to the public is palpable. Generally, there is a certain amount of gloom around Sundance, because the economy is making it even harder to sell a movie these days. We believe “The Cove” will beat the odds.

“The Cove” aired this afternoon for media and industry folks only. (The next public showing is tomorrow afternoon, which should be great – it’s sold out.) There will be six more showings this week.

Pam McCann, another outstanding supporter of Earth Island, and Mark Palmer passed out our postcards to the media and movie industry just before the showing.

The Sundance experience is quite entertaining, and not just the constant parties that are going on. (Your virtuous Earth Islander correspondents have only gone to one or two parties so far – can’t quite remember right now… And of course we can’t get invites anyway. One of your humble correspondents does remember giving the cocktail waitress, a stunning blonde, an official Save Japan Dolphins key chain…) Then there is always hanging out on the streets of the small town of Park City.

Sundance Ric & Dave: “Ric O’Barry (left) of Save Japan Dolphins Coalition and David Phillips, Director of Earth Island Institute, relax between media interviews and showings of “The Cove” at Sundance.”
Copyright Mark J. Palmer

At most showings, the theater is packed with excited filmgoers. When the film stars walk into the theater, there is a rush of people standing and craning their necks to see the celebrities (not to mention thousands of flashes from cameras and phones). The films are watched in rapt silence. And at the end, the crowd is enthusiastic and claps and cheers. Then the Director gets up and introduces the cast and crew to the theater, and they take questions from the audience. Their enthusiasm, in answer to the enthusiasm shown by the viewers, leads to yet more… well… enthusiasm! We have enthusiasm gushing out all over the place! It is, as we said before, an experience, especially if you love movies like we do.

It is really too bad that no dolphins can attend.

Ric O’Barry is amusing this morning. Now that the pressure from the past few days of the premiere of “The Cove” has been (somewhat) relieved, he watches outside the window of the rental unit with undisguised delight. He has NEVER seen people skiing before; he has never gone skiing himself. As a beach bum in Florida, he just never had the chance. Now he is thinking about taking a lesson, or at least riding one of the chair lifts up and down the mountain. Our boss Dave Phillips warned him not to break anything important.

I should also mention that while Ric, as the star of the show gets a nice rental in town with the cast and crew of “The Cove,” we Earth Islanders have more humble (and very much cheaper) lodgings in nearby smoggy Salt Lake City.

More interviews and a public showing of “The Cove” are scheduled tomorrow.

We are keeping our flippers crossed that “The Cove” continues to get rave reviews, attracts a great distributing company, and – just maybe – wins a Sundance award!


The Save Japan Dolphins Coalition includes In Defense of Animals, Ocean Care of Switzerland, Earth Island Institute, Campaign Whale of the UK, Animal Welfare Institute, and Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Postcard Announcement

“At all showings of “The Cove” at Sundance Film Festival, the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition are passing out postcards to viewers featuring our logo and website, in both English and Japanese.”

Click here to download the postcard (pdf)

The Latest NEWS from Sundance Film Festival - Day 1

By Mark J. Palmer, Associate Director,
International Marine Mammal Project, Earth Island Institute, and the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition

Sundance Cove Crew: “The film crew and staff for “The Cove” gather for a photo after the premiere at Sundance Film Festival in Park City.”
Copyright Mark J. Palmer

Sundance Jim & Ric: “”The Cove’s” Producer, Jim Clark, and Ric O’Barry of Save Japan Dolphins Coalition at Sundance.”
Copyright Mark J. Palmer

Day 1 - Morning
The Pr
emiere of “The Cove” January 18, 2009

We are here at the Sundance Film Festival, where this afternoon the premiere showing of the new documentary “The Cove” is coming. There is a lot of e
xcitement here. There were more than 800 documentaries submitted to Sundance for inclusion in the Festival; Sundance chose 16, including “The Cove.” We’ve only seen rough cuts of the film before now, and we may not be able to get into the premiere – we have heard that “The Cove” tickets are the hottest tickets in town, and we have not been able to get tickets to the premiere for weeks! Actor and whale conservationist Pierce Brosnan and his wife Keely Shay Smith may attend. In all, there are eight different showings of “The Cove” this week at Sundance.

By “we”, we mean our Save Japan Dolphins Coalition team. This includes David Phillips and Mark J. Palmer of Earth Island Institute, Mac Hawley of the Hawley Family Foundation, and Richard O’Barry, chief spokesperson and strategist of the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition. Just to make sure it was a family affair, Mac brought his daughter Julia, who arranged for our team to have matching jackets at Sundance with the Coalition logo on them, and Ric brought his son Lincoln, whom Ric acknowledged before the Sundance audience was a key backup to his work for dolphins for many years.

Sundance Louie & Ric: “Filmmaker Louie Psihoyos and Ric O’Barry of Save Japan Dolphins Coalition talk to the audience following the premiere of “The Cove” at Sundance Film Festival.”
Copyright Mark J. Palmer

“The Cove” is a film by Louie Psihoyos and the Oceanic Preservation Society that features the work the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition is doing to stop the annual slaughter of thousands of dolphins each year. The film starts with the hidden cove near the town of Taiji in Japan (hence the name of the film), but it quickly expands to discuss the trafficking in live dolphins for aquariums and “swim-with-dolphins” programs around the world (sale of a few live dolphins from the drive fishery for tens of thousands of dollars each – as much as $150,000 each -- subsidizes the dolphin killers) and the contamination of dolphin meat with mercury poisoning, a direct health threat that the Japanese government is hiding from their own people.

In the end, just as the Japanese people must stop killing dolphins and whales, we all must work together to protect our common oceans and fight pollution, over-fishing, global warming, and other threats to dolphins and whales.

We have postcards that features our Coalition logo and website. We will hand them out to media, theatergoers, and any interested persons who want to save Japan’s dolphins.

Since Ric and filmmaker Louie Psihoyos got to Sundance a few days ago, they have been in interview after interview with the media. Plaudits for “The Cove” have come from such film luminaries as Gore Verbinski and Chris Columbus.

New York Magazine ran an interview with Ric in the current issue. Go to:

The Cove’s Richard O’Barry on Secret Dolphin Slaughter — and Flipper’s Suicide

The Hollywood Reporter had
a strong article, talking with Louie, praising this incredible documentary. Go to:

Commentary: Sundance dolphin doc is really action thriller

Day 1 - Evening
The Premiere of “The Cove” and the Party Afterwards, January 18, 2009

Hard to come up with all the words – the film has been a BIG hit with the crowd here at Sundance.

As Ric says, people cried, they laughed, and at the end of the movie, they asked what they could do. That is EXACTLY what we had hoped for. It can’t get any better than that! We hope the Sundance reaction will be repeated all over the world, ESPECIALLY in Japan.

“The Cove” is like no documentary ever made. It plays almost like a spy thriller, as Louie and his crew plan to film the slaughter of dolphins that the Japanese government has put off limits to all cameras. The ways that the film crew uses to get around this ban make an incredible spy thriller – a REAL spy thriller. Rumor has it
that Japan has issued or will soon issue arrest warrants for the Ocean Preservation Society crew who risked their lives to bring the truth to the world – and especially to the Japanese people.

People cheered through the credits as the film ended. They cheered repeatedly as members of the film crew were introduced. But the biggest reaction came when Ric, who helped narrate the film, came down to the front to be introduced. Ev
erybody in the audience stood up and cheered! It was an emotional moment for all of us.

In the lobby, Actor Pierce Brosnan and Sheely Kay Smith congratulated Louie Psihoyos and Ric for the great job
they did.

And everybody wanted copies of our Save Japan Dolphins postcard!

A good loud party followed the showing at a gallery on Main Street in Park City. Many of the film crew was there, along with those of us from Earth Island Insti
tute and many Hollywood glitterati.

Sundance Cove Party: “After the premiere of “The Cove”, many of us attended the film party at a nice gallery on Main Street in Park City.”
Copyright Mark J. Palmer

Virtually everybody took our postcards, with our Save Japan Dolphins Coalition logo and website. Our website was also featured in the closing credits of the film. There are seven more showings of “The Cove” at Sundance, and we p
lan to give out all our cards over the next few days.

Sundance Dave & Ric: “David Phillips (left), Director of Earth Island Institute, and Ric O’Barry of Save Japan Dolphins Coalition, dis cuss strategy between media interviews and showings of “The Cove”.”
Copyright Mark J. Palmer

A great deal of planning is still ahead. For the movie “The Cove,” the filmmakers are looking for a major film company to distribute the film all over the world. Louie says that one of the stipulations for distribution will i nclude the preparation of a Japanese version.

At Save Japan Dolphin Coalition, we are working on big plans for the film and our continuing campaign to END the slaughter of dolphins in Japan, and throughout the world. We plan to end trafficking in live dolphins, and we plan to do our part to reduce pollution of the world’s oceans with mercury.

YOUR HELP is the most important component of our work. We have a new Administration and new Congress in Washington DC, and we have a powerful new tool in “The Cove” to bring the shocking story of the dolphin slaughter to the attention of the world. But we need you to help us! We need to you contact yo ur Congressmember’s and President Obama, who will be inaugurated on the 20th. We need you to contact the consulates and the government of Japan.

We need your donations to help fund showings of “The Cove” in Japan, which may raise major problems if the government
continues its censorship of the slaughter of dolphins and whales. The people of Japan need to know the truth! The people of Japan are not the enemy – they really do not know what is going on because the government is hiding the activities of a handful of dolphin killers.

And of course, once “The Cove” starts appearing in theaters, you need to go see it! You need to bring your friends! You need to urge your Congressmember’s to see it! (For example, we plan to, hopefully, set up special screenings in Washington DC.)

Sundance Pierce & Keely: “Actors and environmental activists Pierce Brosnan and Keely Shay Smith congratulate filmmaker Louie Psihoyos at the premiere of “The Cove” at the Sundance Film Festival.”
Copyright Mark J. Palmer

So, your help is key, you see, to ending the pain and killing of thousands of dolphins each and every year. As “The Cove” ends, ominously, it states that the dolphin hunt is scheduled to begin again this coming September.

Right now, though, we’re going back to the party! The champagne is flowing.

The Save Japan Dolphins Coalition includes In Defense of Animals, Ocean Care of Switzerland, Earth Island Institute, Campaign Whale of the UK, Animal Welfare Institute, and Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan.