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The Cove
Genre Documentary
Year: 2009
 
Review:

The Cove is a documentary about nature preservation and an attempt to make wrongs right. Ric O'Barry, famous for his work on Flipper and now for his activism, is the driving force behind this fascinating behind-the-scenes investigation into the annual dolphin drives in Taiji, Japan. The trainer-turn-activist has been campaigning for years to set dolphins free after ironically helping the much-loved species to stardom and creating a demand and ultimately a threat to their survival as a species.

Once select bottlenose dolphins have been isolated in Taiji's small bay and destined for international ocean trick show arenas, the remainder are herded into a cove and mercilessly slaughtered. The seasonal practice echoes years after lobbying against Japan's whaling fleets reduced their fishing capacity to scientific research. Now, possibly the world's largest fishing country is under the spotlight again with the help of Ric O'Barry, director Louie Psihoyos, writer Mark Monroe and this Oscar-winning documentary.

The Cove is similar to Man on a Wire in that it portrays its "illegal" investigative mission much like a heist film. Man on a Wire was about defying authorities to perform art, while The Cove pulls its "Ocean's Eleven" crew together to capture irrefutable evidence of mass dolphin slaughters from the infamous cove. Ric 'O Barry heads the crack team of deep sea divers, camera crew and covert specialists into Taiji, where his presence is a threat to local fishermen and their money-making racket. He's a public nuisance to the small town for his efforts to glean evidence for the international press and derail the annual dolphin harvest.

The documentary sets about establishing O'Barry and "The Cove", while exploring the detrimental affects of the Taiji dolphin drive and the secretive nature of the operation. It's a thought-provoking eye-opener with insight into the fishing industry, the adverse repercussions of its continuation and the levels to which an activist group must go to highlight a worthy cause. The Cove is thoroughly entertaining and keeps a good pace as it paints the big picture only to smear it with blood. There are some scenes, which are difficult to watch as hundreds of fellow mammals suffer a cruel death, but these visuals are important in driving the severity of the problem home.

It's difficult to engender a reaction from an audience, who are displaced enough to watch news channel reports on hurricanes, earthquakes and terrorist bombings from a distance in relative comfort. The Cove seeks to humanise the mammal species, contextualising the cause and giving you a reason to act. As O'Barry says "if you're not an activist, you're an inactivist". There's no real arm-twisting involved, apart from a fixed angle and the visuals speak for themselves. They are representing a slightly biased view, but when you align it with the anti-whaling initiatives in the '80s it actually says something about society in the 2000s.

If it's not affecting you directly, even in the case of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, we're not interested. All these 'cause' documentaries are inconvenient truths and as one commentator said during The Cove, the course of history is changed by individuals. It's one of those documentaries that you may shy away from watching because you know it'll make you feel guilty for not protesting or compelled to protest. Either way, it's a must-see, which gives the little guy a loudspeaker for a change.

The bottom line: Compelling.

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8.50/10 ( 2 Votes )
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