Friday, February 12, 2010

So it took me a while to figure out what I wanted to write about The Cove, the now Oscar-nominated documentary about dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan. When first released last August, it didn't make much of a splash (no pun intended), in that it stayed mainly in the art houses and the reviews I read didn't even inspire me to drop the ten bucks to seek it out. But now, hopefully since its release on DVD and the press it will receive from award season, more people will give it a chance. I expected another activist/eco-documentary, but what I didn't expect was how affected I would be by the story. Called “Ocean's Eleven-meets-Flipper”, it follows a team of marine biologists, adrenaline junkies, high-tech filmmakers and animal activists on a journey to expose the horrific slaughter of 23,000 dolphins each year in a small inlet in Japan. The true reason for why this community feels the need to exterminate so many dolphins so brutally is not really made clear (is it because their culture depends on dolphin meat for food? Because the fishing industry fears that dolphins eat too many fish? Is it that protecting dolphins under International Whaling Commission guidelines would call more attention to Japan's whaling industry? And if any of these are actually the reason, why are they treating the cove as such a dirty little secret?)
The cast, with their movie-star good looks and top-of-the-line equipment (courtesy of Industrial Light and Magic, George Lucas' company that most notably created all those Star Wars movies and creatures) lead a covert operation to capture on video what hides behind the stone walls of the cove and expose to the world the truth about the slaughter. The music was beautifully done, the narrative so suspenseful it gave the plight of these animals even more urgency. I would have liked to seen more interviews with Taiji locals, surely more than just the 2 councilmen featured (and the angry fishermen who threaten the filmmakers' and cover their cameras) had some insight into why their community was a part of this practice. There is some highly graphic footage contained in the movie, but by the time you reach this part of the story, you are so drawn in by the suspense of learning the secret of the cove that can't look away. And hopefully, the world won't turn away until the slaughter stops.

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