Friday, August 7, 2009

'The Cove,' a riveting documentary

The Cove might be the most exciting of all the recent movies that have attempted to deal with environmental issues -- from An Inconvenient Truth to Food, Inc. to End of the Line. I'm referring to a broad spectrum of problems that encompass everything from a nutrition-imperiled food supply to depletion of the globe's undersea population.

The Cove, which deals with the threat posed to dolphins, focuses on the small Japanese town of Taiji. Taiji is home base for fishing operations in which dolphins are driven into a small cove where they're systematically killed or captured for shipment to theme parks. Not surprisingly, money is the root of the evil that has beset the world's dolphin population.

Director Louie Psihoyos keeps the story suspenseful. He also explains that the movie was a kind of stealth operation. The crew, which had to sneak into position to do much of the filming, used cameras hidden in fake rocks. In order to photograph the mass killing of dolphins, the filmmakers also had to dodge authorities.

According to Ric O' Barry, the most prominent of all the movie's voices, dolphins are aware of what's happening to them. O'Barry should know. He was responsible for training the star of the TV show, Flipper. Dolphins, O'Barry tells us, are smart, sensitive creatures that don't deserve to be brutally slaughtered. O'Barry came to this conclusion after his work on Flipper. He since has devoted his life to freeing captive dolphins and trying to keep more of them from being killed.

There's a kicker to the story, as well: The dolphins that are killed for food have been so tainted by mercury that they're not healthy to eat. But this kind of danger hasn't slowed the killing.

Eventually, we're shown what happens inside the cove. As you can imagine, it's not a pretty sight. The waters of the cove fill with blood.

We're long past the time when we probably should adopt a live-and-let-live attitude toward wildlife on the planet. If you didn't think so before, it's difficult to imagine that you won't feel differently after watching this harrowing and heartbreaking feature about creatures that haven't been able to escape our predatory habits.

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