The Cove Film Response by Cindy Kaneko
The Cove by Louie Psihoyos is a film that sheds light upon the plight of the dolphin industry in Taiji, Japan. Around twenty five thousand dolphins are killed each year and Psihoyos creates a documentary to advocate for the abolishment of dolphin slaughtering. Psihoyos meticulously captures the dolphins and the settings in such a light as to plea his case, yet his point of view throughout the film is somewhat limited and needs greater attention to perspective.
Psihoyos captures the dolphins in different settings as O’Barry is interviewed, speaking venerably of the dolphins. When he states that dolphins are not meant to be captive and shows them as free creatures of the sea, the scene is extremely tranquil. Beautiful, soothing music plays in the background as the dolphins are seen swimming freely in the ocean. The dolphins are the main focus, enveloped in the deep shades of the blue, creating an image of beauty and life. The beautiful silhouettes of the dolphins appear large and untouchable, swimming gracefully in the water. Psihoyos truly emphasizes the dolphins as this grand creature.
When O’Barry speaks of the different methods the fishermen use to capture the dolphins, the ocean scenes quickly turn almost deadly. Gone are the aqua, turquoise, and teal colors of the ocean, replaced with a new depressing shade of grey. The once large dolphins appear small, lost, and frightened among the now cold and murky looking water. The fishing boats appear like dingy and uncivilized contraptions, wobbling precariously in the ocean, preying upon the tiny vulnerable dolphins. The dolphins do not look like the magnificent, untouchable creatures like in the previous scenes, but as terrified creatures swimming for their lives.
The artificial place setting for the dolphins such as Sea World is captured in such a distasteful light. The colors for these settings parallel that of plastic: red, yellow, and blue, reminding viewers of a fast food kids meal, appealing to the eye yet extremely unhealthy. It is clearly a stark contrast to the other clips where the dolphins were seen swimming freely in the ocean. In the scene, spectators surround the dolphins that are caged in by a clear fence. Although the spectators are having a grand time, viewers see how the dolphins are trapped as mere entertainment for spectators and wince at this synthetic playpen. As O’Barry speaks, the vile and disgust in his voice is clearly perceived, and the background music of an amusement park eerily adds to the scene, creating an image of a materialist and haunting world.
Although the film is shot impressively, Psihoyos seems to show an insular perspective on the Japanese community. He interviews various American advocates like celebrity Hayden Panettiere, yet he never seems to go into the towns and interview the villagers on their view of the industry. He portrays all of the Japanese people in a harsh light, making them appear like cruel individuals who kill. To receive more respect on the documentary, Psihoyos could have incorporated views from the natives who understand the evils of the industry. When he does interview the Japanese people, Psihoyos captures the cunning and furtive men who are on secret cameras on shaky angles, adding to their shrewd reputation. The Japanese men are clearly on hidden cameras, and traditional Japanese music plays while viewers laugh at the men’s bad accents. Parallel to the Sea World scene, Psihoyos uses visual perspective and background music to give a certain image of the Japanese dolphin murderers.
There must be at least a few Taiji citizens who realize what the fishermen are doing and are on the same side as the Americans. If he were to interview those few, the direction of the film could have been how there are Japanese who are mindful of the situation and what they can do in the future to bring more awareness to the slaughter of the dolphins, changing the course of the film to a more positive light. If the industry were even to be destroyed, what would happen to Taiji? The whole town seems to run on this attraction of dolphins; the town and the townspeople will most likely collapse along with the business. Rather than concentrating on exposing the whole destruction of the industry, Psihoyo could have proposed other alternatives to the town. If Psihoyo is going to portray Taiji in such a negative and abusive light (although truthful), the fishermen in Taiji will rebuttal more aggressively in response.