Friday, August 28, 2009

You MUST see The Cove

Last night I ventured out on a school night to finally see District 9 with my friend Kent. We had been trying to see it for a week and showed up at the theatre to find that that it was pretty much sold out. Boo to that. We bought tix anyways and figured we would see something else if all that was left was crappy seats. Then we were very strangely followed up the escalator by the (?) Manager of the theatre who proceeded to natter at us incessantly about how District 9 was the sleeper hit of the summer, that it had been sold out for 2 weeks blah blah blah. Weirdness. Complete and total weirdness.

Anyways.... no decent seats so we went and saw The Cove instead.

We had both wanted to see it, but I knew it would be a hard movie to watch and thought I would have a chance to prepare myself for it. No such luck.

The Cove is an astounding piece of investigative journalism with the heart of an action thriller. Led by Louie Psihoyos, leader of the Ocean Preservation Society, and Richard O'Barry, an internationally recognized authority on dolphin training who is best known for his work on the 1960's TV show Flipper, the film follows a high-tech dive team on a mission to discover the truth about the international dolphin capture trade as practiced in Taji, Japan. Utilizing state-of-the-art techniques, including hidden microphones and cameras, the team uncovers how this small seaside village serves as a horrifying microcosm of massive ecological crimes happening worldwide. The Cove is also directed by Louie Psihoyos, who brings confidence and precision to his insider's account of this life-or-death covert operation. A celebrated photographer who has created images for National Geographic for 18 years, Psihoyos captures the magnificence of the dolphins themselves and the ocean that surrounds them.

The Cove is probably the most important film I will see this year. It won the Audience Award at Sundance this year, and is likely to garner an Oscar nomination in the Documentary Category. Everyone should see this movie. It should be required viewing for any human being. It will devastate and anger you. There are five minutes in this movie that will sicken you.

Yes, Ric O'Barry is a little paranoid. But his paranoia is warranted. He is questioned repeatedly by the authorities in Taiji and is followed everywhere he goes. The guilt that he feels for his role in human kind's fascination with dolphins is palpable and is clearly the driving force in everything he does.

Some have said that what takes place in Japan is no different from a slaughterhouse. That the only reason that we are so up in arms about this is because Dolphins are cute and adorable. And to some extent, that may be true. But these are wild creatures that are being herded into a cove and butchered in the most inhumane fashion imaginable. There is also extensive research and anecdotal evidence demonstrating not only that these creatures are self aware, but that they have an intelligence that perhaps rivals our own. O'Barry speaks of one of the Flipper's recognising itself on TV and an Australian surfer tells an amazing story of a dolphin that T-Boned a shark that was hunting him while he was surfing.

This practice is beyond comprehension. Every year 23,000 Dolphins are slaughtered in Japan. The slaughter is hidden from public view in a secret cove, but the evidence is clear as the ocean honestly looks like it has had red paint poured in it. And why? Money. Dolphins are sold to "swim with the Dolphin" programmes and amusement parks for upwards of $150,000 each - of which both the fisherman and the town get a cut, The remainder are killed and apparently sold for meat - in spite of their often toxic mercury levels.
And the fact that is is condoned and supported by the Japanese Government and media is horrifying. Not only do they condone this barbaric practice, they also "pad" the International Whaling Commission by bribing impoverished nations to vote in their favour. The fisherman in this village are not sympathetic in the least, hiding behind the excuse that this is a cultural practice that Westerners do not understand, showing their anger and contempt at the film crew being there. Everyone involved seems determined to keep this slaughter a secret, not only from the world, but even from other Japanese citizens, many of whom seem unaware that this practice is taking place.

This is not an easy movie to watch. It produces a visceral response in many people. But it is a movie that you should watch. It is a film that is designed to awaken the activist in us all. No-one - human or otherwise - has a right to treat another creature in such a callous and cruel manner. This practice continues in Japan. It is scheduled to start again in September. Unless the world does something about it.
Check out this site for how you can get involved:

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