Friday, December 4, 2009
The Cove ***1/2
Director: Louie Psihoyos
Movies are rarely as compelling, involving and heartbreaking as "The Cove". Louie Psihoyo's fascinating documentary takes us behind the dirty business of dolphin slaughtering and how it all could be stopped if the Japanese government closed a small slaughter house in Taiji-wisely hidden inside a natural cove-where over 23,000 dolphins are brutally murdered every year.
The purpose? To be mislabeled as, the more expensive and difficult to catch, whale meat and then be fed to Japanese children.
The problems? Besides the obvious inhumanity that goes beyond the slaughtering, dolphin meat contains high doses of mercury which can gradually lead to intoxication and severe health issues.
But the movie doesn't only appeal to us by tickling our self preservation (although that can easily do the trick), but also talks to our higher intelligence and encourages us to face the damages we've caused to our planet and how we perpetuate destruction.
We are reminded that dolphins are perhaps the most intelligent species living in our planet and makes an interesting point out of why we work so hard to communicate with aliens that might not even exist, when right here we are murdering a species we could learn so much from.
The film does a wonderful work injecting ideas that go beyond activism and facile manipulation, it even probes into why Japan even insists on whale and dolphin slaughtering when everyone else in the world is against it?
The filmmakers come up with the notion that it's a rejection against Western thought and perhaps one of their last attempts to cling onto their dead Imperialism.
Connecting the ideas we are forced to wonder if we aren't in fact killing dolphins because we are also clinging to our notions of cerebral supremacy? Is the slaughtering a subconscious manifestation of the very same idea that lies behind all those alien movies where a higher intelligence comes and destroys us? Or is this notion reserved for the Japanese alone who fear their culture is being exterminated?
This might be pushing it a bit too far, but really, how often do you start connecting dots in your head after a film is over?
"The Cove" also works as great entertainment. Psihoyos teams up with dolphin activist Richard O'Barry (who trained the original Flipper) and with a group of experts breaks into the cove in Taiji where they come up with truly horrific footage.
With O'Barry, the movie also makes for aching personal journey, as the man, now a senior citizen, recounts how much he regrets having captured the dolphins they used on "Flipper".
He tells us how one of the dolphins committed suicide in his arms because she could stand captivity anymore.
He worked capturing dolphins for ten years and has spent almost forty trying to undo his work. Talk about lifelong atonement.
"We tried to do the story legally" they say, when in fact this illegality is what makes it work so well as a thriller (they compare themselves to "Ocean's Eleven" but this is more Costa Gavras than The Rat Pack).
Curiously some of the equipment they use to infiltrate the slaughter house is made by Industrial Light and Magic, which created E.T. among other things.
We are reminded that we have the power to create amazing things and spark change, all we are missing is the will.