The Cove

The Cove is intelligent film-making as an extreme sport - presented as an exhilirating thriller.

The Cove movie

Product details

Product name: The Cove

Reviewer: Kate Arneman

Publisher: Madman Entertainment

G Rating:


"We have a mission statement: 'We're not trying to save the whole planet, just 70 per cent of it," laughs Louie Psihoyos, co-founder of the Oceanic Preservation Society and director of award-winning documentary The Cove.

"The way the movie is set up is that The Cove isn't just about the cove. It's a microcosm for what's going on in the oceans," he says.

The film's central point is a secret cove in the middle of a National Park in Taiji, Japan. The cove is a natural fortress, protected on three sides by steep cliffs, with an entrance on one side protected by high spiked gates with barbed wire and tunnel entrances protected by guards and dogs.

Taiji is where dolphins are captured each year to supply ocean theme parks and swim with the dolphin programs with their star attractions - a highly lucrative industry that Psihoyos estimates is worth US $2 billion a year.

The secret cove is where those animals passed over, including mothers and calves, are slaughtered en masse by local fishermen. Although it contains toxic levels of mercury, the meat is sold for human consumption, often falsely labelled as whale meat to attract a higher price.

Human activities such as burning coal contribute to mercury levels in our oceans and dolphin meat has such dangerously high levels because they are large marine mammals high up in the food chain.

Psihoyos heard about Taiji when he met Richard O'Barry, the world's foremost dolphin activist (who in the film quips, "If there's a dolphin in trouble around the world, my phone rings.")

O'Barry trained the bottlenose dolphins for 1960s TV show Flipper, but became convinced that keeping these remarkably intelligent animals in captivity for human entertainment was unethical and cruel.

Thrills and spills

The Cove is not your typical doco with a green message. This is intelligent film-making as an extreme sport - presented as an exhilirating thriller.

After attempts to enlist the help of local authorities and gain entrance to the cove legally were met with hostility, Psihoyos and O'Barry came up with a highly risky alternative - an undercover mission to get close enough to film the killing of the dolphins and expose the practice to the world.

To boldly go where no film crew had gone before called for an unconventional team, tactics and equipment. An ex-military electronics expert developed cameras that ran on batteries used by climbers on Mt Everest; artificial rocks created by movie set-makers to house the cameras were placed within the restricted area in the middle of the night; two freedivers (including world champion Mandy-Rae Cruickshank who can hold her breath for about six and half minutes, the same as a dolphin's standard dive) placed audiovisual equipment underwater.

Throughout filming, the team were under surveillance by local police and after confronting an official of the national Fisheries Agency with illegally obtained footage of the inhumane methods used to kill the dolphins, it was time to hightail it out of the country.

"We got out of the country as soon as we could," recalls Psihoyos. "We had a car waiting for us, we were packed up."

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