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Ten Words or Less Review: Mortifying documentary about dolphin slaughter in Japan.

“The Cove” is a movie to watch with friends, for in the watching of this movie, you will come to see if they have a soul or not.  “The Cove” is an accusing look at the dolphin killing fishermen of Taiji, Japan.  In Taiji, the town’s fishermen spend 6 months of the year catching and killing roughly 23,000 dolphins.  They do this EVERY YEAR.  These ‘people’, I use the term loosely, brutally round up herds of dolphins every morning into the cove the title forebodingly refers to.  Here, some dolphins are captured and sold to aquariums around the world for huge prices.  Those dolphins not selected for a life of unenviable captivity are then rounded into a side cove difficult to see from land, and then brutally slaughtered.  “The Cove” may culminate in one of the most horrific sequences of animal slaughter ever put to film for mass viewing.  The fishermen stab, impale and butcher these creatures, turning the sea red, proving that Hell can exist just fine on Earth, no need to take that express elevator down.  This is the part where watching with your friend(s) becomes important.   Only a sick personality of Colonial Kurtz-like insanity could watch this and react with passive indifference.  Should you watch this with friends or loved ones and they view this slaughter indifferently, shrugging it off with no reaction, stop being their friend immediately.  The person you’re sharing space with has nothing but ice in their veins and a ‘For Rent’ sign where their heart beats.  Walk away slowly, take their number out of your phone, unfriend them on facebook.  In short, get the Hell away from them fast.  So, with that said, back to the movie.

This slaughter was captured by a team of activists who had to plan and calculate with clandestine military precision.  The cove is guarded fiercely by the local fishermen and authorities immediately arrest and deport anyone who attempts to watch or reveal the horror show.  Using Hollywood trickery, cameras in rocks, and old fashioned sneakiness, this team of admirable do-gooders have finally shown the world an atrocity that few knew anything about.

Making the film so painful on a different level entirely is recounting the life of activist Richard O’Berry.  O’Berry was a dolphin trainer who inadvertently helped usher in the age of cetacean captivity.  How?  He was the dolphin trainer on the TV show “Flipper.”  Before that show, the idea of keeping and bonding with adorable sea creatures, and charging people to do it, hadn’t had its day.  Thanks to the show’s success, it ran for three seasons, the idea of capturing and showcasing aquatic mammals came to the forefront and our sea bound friends have been paying the price ever sense.  O’Berry feels a crushing sense of responsibility for starting this repellent trend and has repeatedly risked life, limb and jail time to free captured dolphins.

Making things even more frustrating are the recounts of questionable and destructive beauracratic BS which has lead to the continued slaughter of dolphins in Taiji.  Of course, the age old response to the horrific slaughter of any creature is, “Well, people gotta eat.”  And I buy that logic hook and line.  Meat is tasty, fish is yummy.  But the fallacy here is two fold.  First, and very important, dolphins have long been regarded in the scientific community as intelligent creatures with a definite sense of higher being.  They empathize, they emote, they’ve repeatedly demonstrated altruistic tendencies towards people.  Butchering them seems to not qualify as murder simply because they’re dolphins.  Secondly, dolphin meat is nearly poisonous in this day in age.  There is so much mercury in it that it can poison human beings over time and lead to birth defects in their newborns.  So why the Hell do these fishermen keep butchering these creatures?  It’s a question that “The Cove” grapples with, speculates at but finds little tangible answer to, only stonewalled belligerence insisting that the slaughter of these creatures continue.

Not many people will like “The Cove” in any traditional sense.  But it’s an exceedingly moving picture that people should make some small effort to see.  It’s a testament to the undervalued power and importance of documentary filmmaking.  Documentaries have been responsible for changing the lives of people, I’m sure this one can, and hopefully has, helped save a dolphin or two from the end of a harpoon.


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