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.

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