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The Cove and its Implications as a Documentary

           In “Why Are Ethical Issues Central to Documentary Filmmaking,” Bill Nichols writes that every film is a documentary; each film is either a documentary of wish-fulfillment (fiction) or a documentary of social representation (non-fiction) (Nichols).   Louie Psihoyos’ The Cove (2009) embodies the latter category of what can simply be called a documentary film as it follows Ric O’Barry’s struggles to expose the slaughtering of dolphins in the waters of a remote lagoon located in Taiji, Japan.



            The Cove establishes Ric O’Barry as its main protagonist, and the documentary details not only his role in dolphin activism today but also his history with commercial dolphin captivity (Psihoyos).  The film first depicts Ric O’Barry’s earlier works with dolphins.  He once worked as a dolphin trainer for the 1960s TV series Flipper – a show that propelled dolphins into the mainstream (Psihoyos).  O’Barry’s past as a trainer for the popular Flipper series helped commercialize the capturing of dolphins (Psihoyos).  However, after production of the series ended, O’Barry adopted the life of an activist.  He believes that Kathy, the main dolphin that acted as “Flipper,” committed suicide by suffocating herself when she purposefully did not open her blowhole to take another breath (Psihoyos), and since that incident, he has worked to release captive dolphins back into the wild (Psihoyos).  The film almost appears to document O’Barry’s effort to rectify his past and what happened to Kathy.  By illustrating to the audience O’Barry’s past and current actions, the documentary personalizes Ric O’Barry’s life.   It becomes an appeal to the emotions of the viewer and an attempt to win the audience to O’Barry’s side. 



The documentary even depicts the commitment of Ric O’Barry.  He says, “I never planned on being an activist. One thing leads to another, and now if there’s a dolphin in trouble anywhere in the world, my phone will ring” (Psihoyos).  The statement by O’Barry demands the viewer to acknowledge the dedication he has to his cause; it is another passionate ploy to gain the viewer to the side of “the speaker” (Nichols).



            With O’Barry established as Nichols’ “speaker,” the documentary then portrays Taiji and its lagoon as the “them” that is spoken about – or against (Nichols).  Ric O’Barry is the speaker (the activist) who tries to convey to the viewer that Taiji is a “little town with a really big secret” (Psihoyos) – that is, dolphin slaughter by local fisherman and townsfolk occurs in an isolated cove in Taiji.



From the “helicopters” to the “drones” to the “thermal cameras” (Psihoyos), the documentary takes on a tone of espionage and covert operations under Ric O’Barry and his crew.  In what appears to be an attempt to place the viewer on the actual team, the documentary even displays to the viewer a map that details all the locations where the crew should not trespass.  This aspect in the film essentially translates into another (fun) appeal to the viewer to gain him or her onto the Ric O’Barry effort against dolphin slaughter.



Ethical issues also remain apparent in The Cove. Food becomes pertinent when the film attempts to document Japan’s “covering up” of the sale of dolphin meat in its markets (Psihoyos).  In the documentary, Scott Baker claims, “Dolphin meat is generally considered to be a less desirable commodity, and it would sell for far, far less, if it was properly labeled.  So the meat is distributed much more widely than…recognized” (Psihoyos).  The film portrays Japan’s government to be in cahoots with the slaughtering of dolphins in order to help the fishing industry, which sees dolphins and other whales as “pests” that hinder the size of the catch (Psihoyos).  But this is also where the film fails to depict to the viewer the other side; actual Japanese activists never make appearances in the film.  The viewer instead is shown obliviousness in the Japanese population when various native citizens display ignorance on the subject in front of the camera.  By dehumanizing the Japanese people into one group that seems to be either for dolphin slaughter or ignorant of it, The Cove makes yet another effort to win the viewer onto the side of the speaker.

            However, with all its endeavors to create a one-sided story of Ric O’Barry against the slaughtering of dolphins aside, the documentary still questions real ethical issues.  The documentary rightfully portrays dolphins as creative creatures with the ability to recognize self and capacity to learn and display intelligence at the level of humans (Psihoyos).  The main issue becomes not that of government corruption but that of the brutal slaughter of intelligent beings.  As humans, the ability to be conscious of being conscious remains remarkable – and this level of consciousness has been documented in dolphins (Psihoyos).  The documentary humanizes the dolphins in an effort to put the main issue at the forefront.  It allows the viewer to place him or herself into the dolphin’s flippers; it becomes an issue of right and wrong, a moral dilemma.  Separate species and mercury health side effects aside, humans and dolphins belong in the same category with regards to the ability to recognize oneself in the world.

Works Cited

Nichols, Bill. “Why Are Ethical Issues Central to Documentary Filmmaking,” from Introduction to Documentary(Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2010), 42-66.

Psihoyos, Louie. The Cove. Lionsgate, 2009. Film.


Shao-Hsing rice wine in Gourmet Club

“Gourmet Club”, which was published in 1919, was written by Tanizaki Jun’ichiro. This gourmet club was founded by five people who are crazy on fine cuisine. In addition, Tanizaki uses exoticism genre in this work, and lots of Chinese cultural are existing in his work. Shao-Hsing rice wine is one of the most remarkable Chinese cultural symbols, and it’s also providing an aesthetic effect in Gourmet Club.   

   First of all, Shao-Hsing rice wine is one of the most famous varieties of huangjiu, which is a traditional Chinese wine. Also huangjiu is three of the world oldest beverage as well as beer and grape wine. Shao-Hsing rice wine originally from Shao-Hsing city, in Zhejiang province of eastern China. This wine is widely used in both a beverage and a cooking wine in Chinese cuisine. People like to drink it at the beginning of a meal instead of eating rice. In addition, it will be drunk out of rice bowls and usually accompany with peanuts or other snacks. Besides that, Shao-Hsing rice wine contains six different tastes—sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, umami, and astringent. With those six flavors harmonious interaction and their mutual effect, it formed the unique of this type of wine which give people an unforgettable impression. Meanwhile, in the gourmet club, Count G. knows this special drink so that he can recognize it.

   Then, Shao-Hsing rice wine was mentioned when Count smells it from two Chinese, the narrator describes: “but at the instant they passed, a whiff of shao-hsing rice wine reached his nostrils. He turned and glanced at the others’ faces” (P107). Because of this, Count G could find the hidden Chinese banquet, and have a series of the stories about there. Furthermore, shao-hsing rice wine came up again in the following text. When Count gave a brief glance at this Chinese banquet, he saw that: “when it was at last placed in the middle of the table, one of the diners stood up and raised a cup of shao-hsing wine, whereupon those sitting with him also rose and, all together, drained their cups” (P120). It first confirmed that Count’s judgment of this type of wine was corrected. Secondly it represents how important of this beverage in Chinese culture.

Overall, with this narrow down exoticism of Shao-Hsing rice wine in Tanizaki’s text, it lend to the aesthetic of the story. The mention of this beverage is not only the symbol of Chinese cultural, but also foreshadowing the development of the story. Shao-Hsing rice wine is also an important setting in this work, which can give readers’ the sense of smell, so that Tanizaki refers twice in the text. Without this specific item, the development of the story is not that reasonable and credible.

Modern Japan (Extra Credit)

Ruth Ozeki’s fictional novel, “My Year of Meats,” tells the story of two Japanese women, Jane and Akiko. Jane, a Japanese American woman, works to create an American television show called “My American Wife” which instills American values into its Japanese viewers. Jane eventually encounters Akiko, a Japanese housewife, who we later find is abused. Using alternating perspectives, Ozeki reveals the “modernization” or “westernization” of Japanese culture through the lives of Jane and Akiko.


Ruth Ozeki demonstrates the influence of American culture in Japanese society through the events which take place in Akiko’s life as a housewife. Her husband Joichi, in particular, exemplifies the introduction of American ideals in their lives as Japanese citizens. For instance, Joichi reveals his interest in American culture when he changes his name to “John” and begins to use common American verbal phrases such as “kill two birds with one stone.”  This subtle transition of their lives from an older Japanese traditional lifestyle, devoid of any foreign influence, to a more “modern” or American lifestyle becomes more starkly evident when Joichi or “John” forces his wife to cook beef in a similar method used in the American television show. Joichi feels that they can become more modern if they consume the same meals  as American citizens. In essence, John becomes more civilized and a more modern Japanese citizen by using food to embrace American ideas.



In addition to events which take place in Akiko’s life, plot events from Jane’s perspective also reveal the modernization of Japanese culture. For instance, as Ozeki continues to narrate through Jane’s viewpoint, Jane quotes, “I was hired by Kato to be a coordinator for My American Wife, the TV series that would bring the “heartland of America into the homes of Japan.” This passage from the novel demonstrates how there is a demand in Japan for a more American influenced media and basically anything “American.” The consumption of beef is made out to be symbolic of one’s complete adoption of a modern lifestyle when the show attempts to persuade its Japanese audience to change their traditional diet to a more beef laden American diet. Furthermore, a memo sent to Jane from the Tokyo Office includes , “***MOST IMPORTANT THING IS VALUES, WHICH MUST BE ALL-AMERICAN.” This is a blatant attempt by an office surrounded by Japanese culture, to change the culture of the Japanese American citizens. While this may seem almost hypocritical, it only makes more apparent the tendency of Japan to make its people become more modern by adopting the American values.



In conclusion, through the incorporation of various perspectives on the events which take place in “My Year of Meats,” Ruth Ozeki is able to portray the “moderization” of Japan or the “westernization” of the Japanese people. Through Akiko’s and Jane’s viewpoints, Ozeki successfully demonstrates how the Japanese view beef consumption and anything of American influence as “modern.”

My year of meat (Extra Credit)



Soyoung Son
Japanese 70

         Jane Takagi-Little is a Japanese American journalist and she works for a Japanese production company. She produces the program of called “My American Wife.”, this is about meat (beef), they show how to cook beef, what the best meat is, and show her life as American wife, how she cook meat every week. There are story of Jane, Suzie and Akiko. Jane’s story is the life of Akiko Ueno, she is manga artist and married with a man who work for BEEF-EX.

         This book’s story is about meat, actually culture of meat is not for Asian food, it came from Western and now it is popular and had been settled as our meal. Almost every one love meat and always find it at table and also rate of sold a meat has been growing rapidly. In My American Wife program show how to cook meat in the best way, and where we can find the best meat. They try to find the place where they can find the best meat, but they found the company which made a meat in stranger way rather than the best meat. There are actually lots of menu that they will cook but end up, they decided to cook a beef, because this American broadcast company have supporter Japanese company as well and this American company make a program for showing Japanese wife the best way to cook beef and that is actual purpose to sell a meat. The company which sold a meat have a huge farm, they want to raise a cow with very easy way, they shot inject of Hormone and other variety prevent inject to cow when cows are born, and also during they are growing, the company give them food mixed some drugs and give some shot as injection. It probably looks that cows are very healthy and they are growing up in very well circumstance, but it is not like that, it is very mess. The company even haven’t cleaned cow’s excreta, the farm is too small cow to grow, People who work there looks very bored to work as machine.  And if kids eat this meat, then they have problem of growing well. I think, most people have ambition and it brings these terrible result, they just need to sell it and earn money with any reason and ways. Ruth Ozeki wants to tell veil of food story, and we have to know there is lots of problem in food. Asian food culture is actually not meat long time ago but now it is popular and every Asian know it as healthy food, but there are lots of junk food also made with meat, such as Hamburger, sausage  and spam, we might know it is very unhealthy food, but we can’t stop eating those food. That means meat has already settled in our life. So we probably want to find a way to eat healthy and great meat as well and even if we eat junk food, we should try to eat less.


















In My Years of Meat by Ruth Ozeki, segmented episodes where Jane Takagi penetrates into the lives of various “american wives” function together to construct one coherently distressful message of the mass producing, profit oriented, mask wearing image of capitalist America. Between these bursts of plot, the one underlying theme of consumption, packaging, and mass distribution in the name of prosperity is represented by a single entity – Wal-Mart; its ugly identity remains static and transcends through each episode of the close inspections. Wal-Mart is shown to be the perfect representation of a falsified face of American culture, both in its shimmering image and its hidden despicable flaws, and in how it corrupts homeland America, as well as deceive Japan.

In America, Wal-Mart is like a disease-filled, brainwashing corporate machine. People are described as zombie like and “spent all their days off at Wal-Mart” (Location 540). Towns are sterilized and equalized into copies of each other, as if Wal-Mart’s giant gloved right hand stamps on the mark of advancement while its rotten black left hand crushes and brushes away the traditional Main street Mom n’ Pop shops. Wal-Mart has the ability to wipe clean any character, there is no race, sexuality, or disability in its eyes, and with the same welcoming embrace it accepts all and contaminates all; it is there that Susie buys her Pepsi, Gracie buys the toys, and Suzuki finds his porn. Ruth also describes the twisted values of the corporation in the case of the Bukowsky family, where “Wal-Mart did the right thing and paid a handsome settlement” (Location 2122). To the cold faced manager who refuses to admit liability, amendments for his mistake did not involve any remorse or humanly emotions. Instead of fixing their wrongs from the root of the problem, Wal-Mart’s attitude of corrective action is simply monetary repayment.

Yet such a flawed creature is glorified in Japan as the “awesome, capitalist equivalent of the wide open spaces and endless horizons of the American geographical frontier.”(Location 559). In reality Wal-Mart is more like a pretty curtain drop in front of a vulgar mess of disturbing meat production and processing; it serves as a filter between the ugly truth, and the dressed up version presented to the masses. However to Ueno, the image casted onto the curtain is precisely what he wishes to broadcast to the people of Japan, both as a means to satisfy their hunger for western understanding, and for his own selfish incentive of promoting beef. Since the Japanese crew’s very initial contact with Jane, “Waru-Maato wa doko?”(Location 538) already sounds like a desperate cry in the pursuit of a falsely constructed wholesomeness.

In My Years of Meat, Wal-Mart is singled out as a symbolism for the foulness within American culture. On one hand it corrodes individualism within the U.S. and uses mass production as a means of creating the frenzy that lies in the source of unethical meat production. On the other hand to the viewers in Japan, only a craftily manipulated image of western power is put forth.  By planting this central argument within the familiar image of Wal-Mart, Ruth urges us to see beyond what is fed to us, and find courage to peer behind the curtain and see the unpleasant truth.

The Journey of Jane and Akiko in My Year of Meats

My Year of Meats is a novel that is about a Japanese-American woman, Jane Takagi-Little, who is a documentary filmmaker. She gets a job offer at two in the morning to produce a Japanese cooking show called My American Wife, sponsored by BEEF-EX, a national lobby organization that represents all kind of meats. In the documentary show, My American Wife, Jane makes a pitch to document that meat is the protagonist of the show and film housewives who can cook with meat. To proceed with the show, Jane and the production crew go on a journey to find the perfect and good-looking American housewives that have recipes, containing meat. Through her journey in the novel, Jane learns a lot about meat. She also finds about her true self, instead of doing what others want her to do.

As Jane travels for the documentary show, she encounters a housewife, Suzie Flowers. In the prologue of My Year of Meats, Jane translates for Mr. Oda, the director of the documentary show, to Suzie on how to act. During the filming, Jane films Suzie making Coca Cola Roast for her family and her everyday lifestyle as a housewife. However, during one of the filming, her husband, Fred Flowers, confesses to Suzie that he is having an affair, shocking everybody on the set. Despite the shocking news, Mr. Oda tells Jane that they will edit and end it with the scene where Fred and Suzie were celebrating on Valentine’s Day. When Jane hears about making the ending as if Suzie and Fred were living happily ever after, she feels that there is no truth within the documentary, which the documentary show ends up lying to the audience. Mr. Oda’s idea of editing to make a happy ending illustrates the idea of participatory documentary filmmaking, which shows the use of editing to create a story that is not true.

Meanwhile, Akiko Ueno is a Japanese housewife that cooks with meat.  She watches My American Wife, and follows the same recipes on the show, like Suzie’s Coca Cola Roast. Her husband, Joichi Ueno, works as the Tokyo PR representative for BEEF-EX. Because of her husband, Akiko is forced to watch the show and fill out questionnaires, in regards to the format of the show and how the meat is presented well. When Akiko and Joichi finish dinner, Akiko throws up in the bathroom, without Joichi knowing. As Akiko watches Jane’s documentary show, My American Wife, she not only learns about meat recipes but there is also a slow shift to her life.

            During Jane’s travel, she is truly inspired by Sei Shonagen’s “The Pillow Book,” as she refers to the book and how Shonagen influences her. She also learns more about meat and where it originated. However, throughout her entire journey, Jane mentions about her standing in being Japanese American and being able to embrace her identity, despite all the racial discriminations she receives from other people. My Year of Meats shifts around between the two women, Akiko and Jane, and how throughout their journey in watching and filming, My American Wife, it changes their perspectives towards life. 

Chinese Cultural forms in “The Gourmet Club”

           The Gourmet Club by Junichiro Tanizaki is a story about a specific club called “the gourmet club.” In this club, a group of food-driven individuals get together at a mansion owned by a Count, and explore delicious food from other countries they have never had before. There are some Chinese cultural forms appear in this story. By introducing those Chinese forms, Junichiro Tanizaki wants to emphasis the theme of exoticism, and at the same time, creates an aesthetic atmosphere of this story.

            The first one appears when the Count cut through a narrow lane and found a Chinese restaurant. “Just then, the sound of a Chinese violin being played somewhere far off came drifting to his (The Count) ears –a sound with overtones and yearning in the night’s darkness.”(107-108) In this scene, Junichiro Tanizaki fully describes the characteristic of the sound of Chinese violin and this description gives readers a visual and audio feeling of what violin is. In China, the traditional Chinese violin is often used to make music that is for specific kind of occasions. The sound of Chinese violin always sounds mellow and expressive and it sometimes make audiences feel sad. In Tanizaki’s description, the sound that gets the Count’s attention also gets readers’ attention.

            The second one appears when the Count saw the sign of that Chinese restaurant and he recognizes that it is a Chechiang restaurant, which serves food from Chechiang province. “He recalled it as a mystic realm of science beauty on the banks of the Westlake, famed in the poetry of Po Lo-t’ien and Su Tung-p’o. And also the best place for Sungari sea bass and for pork belly cooked in soy a la Tung-p’o.”(112) In this scene, Tanizaki inserts some knowledge of Chinese geography. In China, Chechiang province is famous for its delicious Chinese food and due to its advantage of location; Chechiang province is also famous for its seafood. By describing Chechiang province, Tanizaki wants to show that the Count is really into Chinese culture and Chinese food therefore when he sees the name of the restaurant; he recognizes that this restaurant would probably have really good Chinese food.

            The third one Chinese form appears when the Count enters the Chinese restaurant and he sees “Others were sipping tea from cups made in Ching-te-chen.”(117) This description shows another characteristic of Chinese culture. In China, the traditional teacups made in Ching-te-chen are considered as high quality teacups and they are often used in good Chinese restaurants. Junichiro Tanizaki uses this detailed information about China because he wants to emphasize that the restaurant that the Count enters in is a good restaurant. Therefore, that restaurant might serve some really decent Chinese food. This Chinese form here plays an important role because it shows that the Count is very knowledgeable about exoticism of food.

            In conclusion, in The Gourmet Club, in order to fully describe the Count’s experience in exoticism food, Junichiro Tanizaki processes some elements of China. By using those elements, the entire story becomes more expressive and attractive.

Meat And Westernization in My Year of Meats (Extra Credits)


          As mentioned at the beginning of the quarter, meat-eating was being promoted as one of the measures to develop Japan as a modernized nation during the Meiji Period. Yet, the relationship between eating meat and modernization or westernization did not only exist in the past, but also in the present days. My Year of Meats is a novel about the experience of Jane Takagi Little as the producer of “My American Wife ”, a TV cooking show which promotes American meat in Japan and this story points out how meat is related to the western cultures and “being modern”.


          Looking at the story of Akiko, one of the viewers of “My American Wife”, eating meat is one of the ways for her family to adapt a “modern” lifestyle. Akiko’s husband, Joichi requires her to learn to cook meat and calls his “modern name”, John (p.21). These changes in their lifestyles, no matter the habit of eating meat or the use of new name, are all closely related to western cultures. Western cultures have the habit of consuming meat for a long time, but not in the Japanese culture until the Meiji Period. Besides that, the new “modern” name that Joichi uses is also a western first name. These show Joichi’s admiration towards the western cultures and his desire of living in a western and modern way. In order to live in a “modern” way, the consumption of meat is essential for Joichi.


          Moreover, My Year of Meats points out the stereotypes that Japanese have on meat and western cultures. In the memo given to Jane for creating “My American Wife”, meat and especially beef is considered as a necessary element to represent the American culture (p.9-10). This shows that in Japanese’s mind, eating meat is an important part of the western cultures. Therefore, this stereotype helps explaining why Joichi consider eating meat as a way to show he is “modern”. 


          Apart from the relationship of meat-eating and being modern, My Year of Meats also explains how meat relates to a desirable life style. As stated in the researches done by the staff of “My American Wife”, Japanese wives do not receive much concern from their husbands (p.12) and they believe that American husbands are generous and docile (p.13). Due to these images of American husband in Japanese wives’ minds, the production team of “My American Wife” tries to relate meat-cooking with the image of an ideal partner (p.13). This shows that meat is not only a symbol of “being modern”, but more importantly, it also represents the desirable lifestyle.


          All in all, from My Year of Meats, a novel published in the late the 20th century, readers can see that the belief that meat-eating is closely related to “being modern” or a desirable lifestyle is still affecting the Japanese society.



Ozeki, Ruth. (1998). My Year of Meats. New York: Viking.


Taiji: Dolphin’s Sanctuary or Dolphin’s Doom?

In Louis Psihoyos’ 2009 Academy Award Winning documentary film, The Cove, audiences around the world are exposed to the dolphin slaughter occurring within Taiji, Japan. Psihoyos introduces us to Ric O’Barry, an ex-dolphin trainer and activist, who is trying to do whatever he can to undo what he created. The show “Flipper” was the origin of Ric O’ Barry’s worldwide fan. However, it also started a wide spread of dolphin captures, and keeping them in captivity such as Sea World, and other dolphin parks. In the town that seems to adore dolphins, Taiji, the dolphins that are caught, and not wanted by the trainers are slaughtered. The dolphin meat is then sold around Japan in grocery stores where they are labeled as high quality whale meat to deceive the public, and placed into the children’s school lunches. Psihoyos’ documentary film provides the audience with the horrifying truth by using military grade cameras to capture footage that has not been seen by the public before. Louis Psihoyos and Ric O’ Barry’s team were able to expose the fishermen’s secret, and the wrongdoings that have occurred in the town that was also known to idolize dolphins.


Taiji is a town in Japan full of whale and dolphin statues, monuments, parks, and even a whale museum. The people of Taiji are unaware of what really goes on. It is ironic to think that in a place where the people idolize these beautiful creatures, is where the horrific captures occur. The fishermen of Taiji keep the area where dolphins are captured blocked off by fences that are incapable of climbing and signs that keep people out. The Taiji police, the fisherman, and other affiliates are very concerned with keeping the cove a secret from the public eye. They know that if the people saw what happened, their town would be doomed. Psihoyos does not hesitate when trying to uncover what really goes on within the cove, and does not care for the concerns of the Taiji police or the Japanese government. He interviews the Japanese people, and they are in shock when they hear about the truth. They stated that they were unaware that the slaughter was going on. Taiji may have seem perfectly calm, and whale loving before the documentary, but in reality it was both dolphins’ and whales’ worst nightmares.


Dolphins always appear to be happy because their mouths are formed in the shape of a smile. However, the dolphins in Sea World, and other dolphin parks are actually far from happy O’ Barry discusses how dolphins in captivity are actually very stressed creatures. Dolphins have highly sensitive sonar abilities, which allows them to hear everything within hundreds of miles. When in captivity, they are surround by a numerous amount of sounds, and it can become too much for them, causing them stress. Being overstressed can kill dolphins just as much as it can kill humans. Thus, many dolphins were beginning to commit suicide in captivity because of the stress caused by the people, the walls, and the city. Psihoyos’ documentary displays how dolphin parks for human amusement are wrong. In Taiji, they are very popular because the people love dolphins and want to see them “happy”. Little do they know, these dolphins are actually suffering.


Before the documentary film was released, there were twenty three thousand dolphins killed annually. These were the dolphins that were unwanted by the trainers. The dolphins are trapped within nets, and then slaughtered in a secret cove by the fishermen of Taiji. Any dolphin that was caught was killed. The dolphins’ meat was sold to grocery stores, where they were mislabeled and sold as high quality whale meat. One of Psihoyo’s team members, Steve, was the one who discovered that they were secretly packaging dolphin meat as whale meat. He was able to tell by reading the mercury content. The mercury content in dolphin meat is about 2000 ppt. That is very high, and should not be eaten on a regular basis. However, the Taiji school district began putting it into the children’s lunches. Two of Taiji’s council members were interviewed in Psihoyos’ film and because they spoke out, they were able to stop the inclusion of dolphin meat in their children’s lunches.

We would not slaughter a human, so why slaughter dolphins? They are intelligent, beautiful, non-violent creatures. The people of Taiji, and around the world adore these creatures because of their warmth, and how they do no harm. The animals that used to be treated as gods during the Greek times, are now being slaughtered. The documentary film, The Cove, is what provided the common people with the push they needed to stop the unjust acts of the fishermen and the Japanese government. It displayed to us how what we perceive is not always true. We may have believed that Taiji was a whale loving place, but in reality it was a whale’s and dolphin’s doom. Dolphins at Sea World may seem happy, but now we know the truth.



The Cove and the Revealing of its Secrets

Documentary film making has always been one of the most effective methods for expressing the ideas and opinions of directors. Because of this, the popularity of the genre has grown tremendously over time. There are so many different types of documentary films that a genre can no longer be solely labeled as a documentary. As a result, there are now sub genres for documentaries that range from observational and expository to participatory and reflexive. In the shocking documentary titled The Cove, director Louie Psihoyos uses the participatory and expository methods of documentary filmmaking to show his journey to reveal the truth behind what happens within the confines of a small cove on the coast of Taiji, Japan. 

The Cove is a documentary about the capture and slaughter of tens of thousands of dolphins that occurs annually in Taiji, Japan. The main purpose of the capturing of these highly intelligent mammals is to find dolphins that can be taken and trained to perform at various water theme parks. Not all of the dolphins that are captured are selected for these positions, however. Those who aren’t fortunate enough to be selected by dolphin trainers are viciously killed in the cove by fisherman so their meat can be sold. Acquiring footage of what went on inside the cove was a great challenge for Psihoyos and his his crew because everything was heavily guarded to prevent any of the secrets about what happens inside from ever being exposed. The only way they were able to finally acquire footage of what went on in the cove was with the use of highly sophisticated and disguised camera equipment that was strategically placed in places where it would go unnoticed such as underwater as well as among the rocks that served as the natural barrier that stopped any outside eyes from ever seeing what was going on. 


An aerial long shot of the blood red waters inside the cove, which are safely hidden away from any outside viewers


Louie Psihoyos prepares for an attempt to obtain video footage inside the cove

The participatory style of documentary filmmaking is when the director of a film is shown interacting with others. Psihoyos plays an important role in his documentary because he is  right there as a part of the spy-like team of camera men who take the risk of entering a highly secure, prohibited area to find the truth behind what is happening to the dolphins who are captured in the cove. One reason that Psihoyos chose to put himself in the film is because he was very passionate exposing to the world the horrors that have been committed by these dolphin fishermen and he felt that by putting himself in the documentary, people could see his concern regarding the matter and understand that it what was happening in Taiji was a very serious issue. The second screenshot shows Louie Psihoyos in one of the first scenes of the documentary where he discusses the legal danger in what they are about to do to try to obtain footage of the dolphin killings. The use of night vision as well as thermal cameras as shown in the close-up screenshot add to the mystery of the theme which brings viewers feel as if they are almost coming along for the suspenseful journey right alongside Psihoyos.


A scientist gives statistical information on the amount of mercury contained in dolphin meat

The expository documentary style is an equally effective method that is used for grasping the viewers attention in a film such as The Cove. Expository filmmaking is the dictating or revealing of truth of about an event with facts. This method is almost necessary in this film where facts regarding the health risks of eating dolphin meat are reviewed. The recommended total level of mercury in seafood in Japan is 0.4 parts per million. When compared to the third screenshot, it is obviously a much smaller amount than what is contained in dolphin meat. This  scene leads to a reference to the Minamata disease, that explains how mercury poisoning in humans first became an issue in 1956 when people became poisoned from the consumption of fish in Minamata, Japan because a factory was dumping its waste into the ocean which was affecting the fish in the area. People who were affected by the Minamata disease suffered many serious health issues. Pregnant women were at the highest level of risk because they would often give birth to children with developmental issues who weren’t able to speak or walk. 

Louie Psihoyos was able to make a very powerful and effective documentary about the issue behind the slaughtering and selling of dolphin meat in Taiji, Japan. He did this through the utilization of different documentary techniques including participatory and expository filmmaking. His film was very effective because it gained popularity worldwide and an issue that was once unknown to even the majority of the Japanese population outside of Taiji became a matter that was suddenly known to everyone.