The Cove: Subjective Experiences Convey the Message

The Cove is a performative documentary by director Louie Psihoyos that powerfully conveys the idea that the Japanese government is killing dolphins unreasonably and harming the rest of the Japanese population through the deceitful sale of mercury-laden dolphin meat. This is achieved through the perceived stark contrast between the Japanese fishermen and officials of Taiji and the International Whaling Commission, and Psihoyos’ team and other activists.

The IWC Delegate for Japan, Joji Morishita, and a man referred to as “Private Space” are prime examples demonstrating the deceit or inapproachability of the men who try to hinder the activists from uncovering the truth of what happens in the cove. Morishita is seen dozing off during the IWC meeting when he is not defending Japan’s policy and practices regarding cetaceans. This sways the viewers to believe that he has a one-sided mindset and does not seriously consider the opposing side, potentially prompting viewers to side with the activists. The unconvincing reasons given for the dolphin hunts are that it is a part of Japanese culture and dolphins have been causing a fish decline that impacts fisheries. The activists seem justified in dismissing these reasons because the fish decline is due mainly to human demand and the surveyed Japanese residents are not aware of the killing of an estimated 23,000 dolphins and porpoises each year. In fact, they aren’t even aware that most of the meat labeled as expensive, healthy whale meat is actually dolphin meat containing a mercury level of 2,000 ppm, which exceeds the recommended level of 0.4 ppm. The activists claim this is due to a cover-up by the media to convince the viewer that the Japanese who support the hunts are even unconcerned for the health of their own people! While these convincing counter-arguments are brought up, there is inevitable subjectivity because the surveyed people all lived in busy cities and the film purposely showed the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo.

Joji Morishita is dozing and seems to be uninterested in what is being said, while a close-up of “Private Space” shows him fiercely yelling at the cameraman.

“Private Space” is a man who is shown several times angrily yelling into the camera. The close-up of his fierce expression makes him seem inapproachable and non-negotiable, which alienates the viewer from him and his way of doing things. His nickname also presents the stance that the activists have toward him because there is no attempt to find out his real name and the nickname seems to ridicule him for knowing only those two English words. The name can be compared to the cuter names given to Richard O’Barry’s dolphins: Cathy and Suzy.

The pro-hunting Japanese people can be compared to the activists who are depicted as peaceful individuals attached to and concerned about the dolphins. Co-founder of Surfers for Cetaceans, Dave Rastovich, and his friends went to Taiji in 2007 to expose the issue. They went out on their surfboards and peacefully sat there, forming a circle with their hands, while angry Japanese men tried to knock them off their boards. The contrast is undeniable, especially since it is seen from the level of the activists. The Japanese men are perceived as the powerful ones and two are standing up as they confront the powerless activists. Another powerful scene, demonstrating the harmonious relationship between nature and the anti-hunting individuals, is when Mandy-Rae Cruickshank is swimming with the dolphins. Her body moves in a way similar to the dolphins, and the peaceful music helps establish the connection that Psihoyos hopes will allow others to understand why the activists are involved and inspire others to take a stand against the unreasonable hunts.

Activists are shown as peaceful individuals who are in harmony with nature and are only trying to bring attention to the issue of the dolphin slaughter and stop it.


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