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.

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