The Cove

2010-10-15 12:47
The Cove

What it's about:

In the 1960’s, Richard O’Barry was the world’s leading authority on dolphin training, working on the set of the popular television programme, Flipper. Day in and day out, O’Barry kept the dolphins working and television audiences smiling. But, one day, that all came to a tragic end. This is the amazing true story of how Louie Psihoyos, Richard O’Barry and an elite team of activists, filmmakers and freedivers embarked on a covert mission to penetrate a hidden cove in Japan, shining light on a dark and deadly secret. The mysteries they uncovered were only the tip of the iceberg.

What we thought:

People don’t generally get excited about documentaries. Not even Oscar-winning ones. Too many reluctant watchers of feature-length doccies have memories of being bored to tears by the tedious subject matter or lulled into a deep slumber by the hypnotic voice of yet another wannabe Richard Attenborough narrator.

The Cove, which has just won an Academy Award for Best Documentary, is different. It’s been described as an "eco-thriller" and "Flipper meets The Bourne Identity" and it’s guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your cinema seat for the full 96 minutes.

The film owes its success and watch-ability to both the emotive topic it tackles - the bloody billion-dollar international trade in dolphins - and its flawless execution, using state-of-the-art surveillance technology, flashy Hollywood gadgetry and, above all, sheer bloody-mindedness and bravery.

The Cove follows the undercover exploits of Richard O’Barry, as he tries to expose the ultra-secretive and brutal activities in a tiny cove near the Japanese village of Taiji, which lies at the heart of the global dolphin capture industry. In the 1960s O’Barry was a prominent character in that industry. Today he fights it with a singular passion. He captured and trained the five dolphins that were used in the making of the popular TV series Flipper, but when one of them died in his arms, his views about keeping these intelligent creatures in captivity took a most dramatic about-turn. Nowadays, O’Barry spends his considerable energy and ingenuity on releasing captured dolphins wherever he finds them.

If your first reaction to hearing about The Cove is that you’d rather not see the barbaric slaughter of loveable dolphins, don’t let it sway you from seeing this movie. Yes, innocent blood gets spilled, but more than anything, this is an action-packed film with a conscience, and it tells a riveting story. It’s also a brilliant example of effective activism against an indefensible practice that ought to be put a stop to immediately.

* While You Were Sleeping, a Cape Town-based non-profit documentary film collective, is hosting three special screenings of The Cove, each followed by a facilitated audience discussion, at the Labia cinema on Orange Street in Cape Town on Sunday 28 March at 8.30pm, Monday 29 March at 6.16pm and Tuesday 30 March at 6.15pm. To make reservations, call 021-4245927.

Shallow water. Deep secret.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.