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.

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