Documentary of the Day – The Cove

We have all seen or heard about the the whale conservationists that are out there stopping Japanese whalers from carrying on, what some see as, a barbaric tradition which has no valued outcome.  I am not one to be trumpeting the side of eco-conservationists or running out to join Greenpeace, but there is a bit of merit to be had with their cause, even if arrogance seems to prevalent amongst those that take part in the movement.  While the Japanese Whalers are under the limelight for their practices, a tradition that has been going on for decades has taken place without little upheaval.

The Cove is a documentary that uncovers the ritualistic, annual killing of dolphins by the Japanese Whaling workers in a small cove Taiji, Wakayama, Japan.  The town has been shielding this cruel practice from the public eye for years and filmmaker Louie Psihoyos conducts covert operations to record and document this slaughter.  It isn’t without some push back from the government and workers who attempt to sabotage the crew and threaten their lives in order to keep this a secret.  The documentary is frightening and often times, sickening at what takes place in the isolated cove.  While this is the centerpiece of the documentary, the film aims to open a dialogue about fishing practices, mercury concerns and the blind eye that the people and government have to this practice.

I don’t get shocked easily when watching a documentary or film, but I will say that this was just jaw-dropping.  What you are watching on screen is a senseless display of killing with no overt purpose.  I understand that fishing and hunting is apart of life and the burden of a growing society and population, but the cruelty and general dismay that takes place with the hunts is almost just too surreal.  The fishermen corral the dolphins with nets and then start spearing them from the boats like a Eastern Captain Ahab.  The killings take place all day and the blood stains the water, turning into a foamy, red sea.

What is effective about this documentary is that the filmmakers go to great lengths to just show us something that is wanting to stay hidden.  They get inventive with their filming tactics and the heightened sense of fear and being shutdown propels that film and narrative to get us to the centerpiece of the film.  The visuals are compelling, but the audio sounds from the cove where the dolphins are being killed just pushes you over the edge.  The documentary just hits you at all senses and gets you involved with what is taking place.  You might feel sad, anger, depressed, or even outraged, but at you feel something because of this.

The overall effect of the documentary does more for opening up discussion about this subject, than being an objective documentary.  Let’s not split hairs, this is basically a propaganda film that pushes an objective to the viewers.  I am comfortable with this notion, but I can’t say that we should be casting stones at the whalers and hunters.  Yes it is barbaric what they do and you just want to jump on a boat and head out to save the dolphins.  That is a wonderful, strong emotion that you should feel, but when you think about what they do to the dolphins, how is it different from what we do to our livestock.  They aren’t just killing them to kill them, rather the meat is used, but there are some other health concerns that are raised by the film.  How is that different than what we do to cows and chickens?  I think it is more powerful because we have been told numerous times about how smart dolphins are and that they exhibit emotions much like us.  This makes it easier to dismiss to our notions about what we do to livestock, but this is a discussion that needs to be had.

If you have never seen the documentary, this is a must.  You will be shocked, but also informed.  That is the sign of a good documentary and the effectiveness of the medium that can compel the viewer to be moved to do something.  There are some critics about the film, but there is no denying the impact that it has on people and what it brought to light.

*images via

About Nick
I am just another blogger putting his thoughts into a website. My love is movies so most of my musings will be movie related. I work as an online marketer for an advertising company and when I am not earning a paycheck, I moonlight as a vigilante film blogger.

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