Friday, January 23, 2009

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.

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