The Cove (2009)

the cove poster 2009 movie
8.0 Overall Score

Exposes a horrible tradition and practice

Comes off as outsiders interfering in another culture at points

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Cove

Studio: Diamond Docs

Genre(s): Documentary

Release Date(s):  April 25, 2009 (Newport Beach International Film Festival)/August 7, 2009

MPAA Rating: PG-13

the cove dolphin show

Everyone loves dolphins…and dolphins love entertaining us…right?

In a hidden cove of Taiji, Wakayama, Japan, something is happening out of the sight of visitors and the people of the island.  Dolphins by the hundreds are being slaughtered by fishermen.  One of the dolphins’ only hope could be Ric O’Barry.  O’Barry came to know dolphins as the trainer for Flipper…but as the years passed, O’Barry realized that the animals he cared for cared about him, and he decided he couldn’t turn away.  With a covert team and hidden cameras, O’Barry intends to expose the slaughter and hopes for change.

Directed by Louie Psihoyos, The Cove is an expose documentary.  The film was released at the Newport Beach International Film Festival and received largely critical acclaim but criticism over portrayal of events and filming techniques.  The film won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

There is no way around that The Cove is a tough movie.  Regardless if you agree or disagree with the dolphin round-ups, it isn’t easy to watch the animals be killed.  I would say the same thing about watching slaughter at a cattle farm.  As humans, you have to have some apathy for other living creatures…but sometimes it isn’t as cut and dry as you think.

the cove dophin fishermen middle finger

Something tells me that he isn’t happy to see the activists

The slaughter is nightmarish.  You can hear the dolphins crying and the water is red with blood.  The hunter casually seem to stab them until they die and in a way those are the lucky dolphins.  The other dolphins are sold into captivity where they will never be free again.  It is heart-wrenching.

The question of the culture of dolphin hunting is an interesting one.  The movie goes a long way to show that the dolphin meat is toxic (poisoned by mercury), and it is implied that a lot of the “culture” of hunting dolphins was introduced more so to sell dolphins.  This is a tradition worldwide.  Establish cultural significance to something and the people accept it…we give valentines on Valentine’s Day and go to bars on St. Patrick’s Day.  It often is a racket established by money…and people will defend their livelihood.

Something that kind of hurts The Cove is the larger world view that has happened since The Cove’s release.  O’Barry comes off as kind of a “White Savior”.  He is an outsider telling another country how to live and act.  I feel his actions would have more of effect if he recruited help from Japan and from the island.  He “knows” about Japanese culture, but he can’t be as effective of a spokesman because it comes off as preachy since he did profit from dolphins and can do what he does because he got the money.  Now, he wants to tell other people not to profit.

the cove dolphin slaughter bloody water

It’s horrible…but I’m thinking how gross it would be to scuba dive in it

The movie makes it more of an action picture.  The actions of the team are covert, they are watched, and hidden cameras are the means they go about it.  Now, the wide use of drones would probably change how this was done, but the approach of the film feels a bit extreme.  They weren’t being given access and it seems like there wasn’t entirely private property so it might have been necessary.

The Cove has an agenda, but it isn’t wrong to have an agenda.  It does what it should do and that is to get people to ask questions and talk about it.  Can there be another way?  Does the slaughter have to be done?  Does it have to be done in such numbers?  These are some of the bigger questions that The Cove doesn’t really dive into.  It feels like a “no compromise” movie when compromise might be necessary to truly enact change.  Dive into the cove and form your own opinion.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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