Tag Archives: dolphins

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.


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. 

SeaWorld: The Cove’s Continuing Nightmare

SeaWorld is one of the premier aquatic theme parks in not only the United States but globally, as well. Opened in 1964, these theme parks make use of captive orcas, sea lions and dolphins in various types of shows and attractions. SeaWorld has also been known for its animal rescue and rehabilitation programs: programs that, since their inception, have saved around 22,000 animals from endangerment and extinction. However, these programs have brought a lot of criticism from wildlife groups all over the world such as Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project Inc. In the movie, The Cove, which showcases O’Barry and his followers’ attempts to stop the annual slaughter of almost 2, 000 dolphins in Taiji, Japan, the lives of dolphins in captivity are portrayed as sad and detrimental to the lives of one of the world’s smartest creatures. Confinement in captivity seriously compromises the welfare and survival of these animals by altering their behavior and causing extreme distress. From this movie, an example of participatory documentary, the world is able to see the truth behind dolphin slaughter as well as the secrets behind dolphinariums such as SeaWorld.

Ric O’Barry’s conviction throughout The Cove is that no dolphin can thrive in captivity, regardless of whether it was bred there, or caught in the wild in a drive. Dolphins are anatomically built for life in the open sea. They have very sensitive organs that detect small vibrations in the waves and can act like sonar, and it is sensitive enough to detect other sea life for miles away. It doesn’t make a difference where these animals come from – the wild or breeding centers – their bodies, sensory system, and nervous system are not built for small areas. They will never be able to be released in the wild. The Cove stresses that “dolphinariums”, such as SeaWorld, are responsible for buying live dolphins from the Japanese fishermen for use in their dolphin shows, aquariums, and swim-with-the-dolphin programs.




A typical dolphinarium show.


Though SeaWorld itself does not directly buy dolphins from Taiji distributers, O’Barry still believes that SeaWorld by keeping the dolphins in captivity, they are nevertheless killing them. Even though he was one of the founding fathers of the dolphin entertainment industry, he has changed his stance regarding their use and wants to end the use of dolphins, as well as other animals, in shows across the globe. He states, “I spent 10 years building that industry up, and I spent the last 35 trying to tear it down” when asked about his efforts to end the dolphinarium industry. He maintains throughout the film that it is not only the slaughter of the dolphins which he fights against but he also believes that “all of these captures help create the largest slaughter of dolphins on the planet” because whether dolphins are captured or not, their outlook is just as bleak being used as entertainment as being used for food.


Up until the 1980s, SeaWorld did in fact import whales from slaughter sites such as those in Taiji. It wasn’t until things like the Marine Mammal Protection Act and work by environmentalists in the early 1990s that finally curbed the importation of dolphins into the United States. However, as seen in The Cove, this has done little to curb the use of these animals in SeaWorld and other similar amusement parks in the US. Instead, dolphins are simply bred in captivity and never actually experience what it is like to be free and a real dolphin. “It’s the captivity industry that keeps this slaughter going by rewarding the fishermen for their bad behavior” and paying for the dolphins to be exported across the world as food and amusement. O’Barry shows through his film how SeaWorld and other aquatic entertainment centers refuse to criticize other facilities that buy animals from Taiji and have not taken any plans or moved in a direction to stop the hunts themselves.




A dolphin suffering from depression in captivity.


By using participatory documentary, we can see what it actually takes to make a dent in the capture and murder of dolphins. O’Barry’s chronicle of his groups attempt to be the first to document the slaughter of the dolphins in Taiji and document the outside forces which help continue these slaughters. We also get a sense of how situations in the film are affected or altered by his presence. He must disguise himself, shake the tails that companies put on him, and avoid pesky fishermen in order to achieve the goal of his film. The encounter between him and the subject becomes a critical element of the film and allows us to see into the actual battle that is being waged in Japan. He makes the film in a way that allows him to shape the issues according to his own sense of what is important, and controls how the audience sees the story as well. By participating and actually showing the changes that his persistence brings, he is able to better explain the predicament of the dolphins and allow for a larger backing of his cause by the audience. His admittance of his involvement in creating this problem and the pain that he feels for being a major cause of dolphin slaughter and capture, allows the audience to gain an emotional connection to the dolphins.


            Overall, SeaWorld continues practices that O’Barry and The Cove aim to stop. We see that though they don’t directly support Taiji, their lack of work towards the prevention of these acts is apparent. For a company that is at the forefront of marine entertainment and “rescue”, they have not used their global influence as much as they should. They don’t take action because it could potentially hurt the multi-million dollar profits that they make every year. People don’t see what goes on behind the scenes after hours. The best way to end dolphin captivity for entertainment and general slaughter is through the education of the public about the dark side of that captivity and what it does to the health and lives of these captive ‘entertainers’. Thankfully, The Cove does its best to portray these problems best they can because without documentaries like this one, our global wildlife will suffer greatly. As stated in the film, “If we can’t stop that [dolphin capture and slaughter], if we can’t fix that, forget about the bigger issues. There’s no hope.” 


South Park: Taking Satire to Extremes

South Park is an American television that is famously–and sometimes infamously–known for its simple drawing style and animation, crude humor, and above all, its fearlessness to tackle some of the most controversial subjects buzzing around. In episode eleven of the thirteenth season, entitled “Whale Whores”, protagonist Stan Marsh discovers the ruthless and cruel obsession the Japanese have with killing any dolphin or whale in sight, before running away and yelling “F*** YOU DOLPHIN!!!” or ” “F*** YOU WHALE!!!” accordingly.



Enraged by the Japanese’s heartless and sick behavior, he decides to join the crew of “Whale Wars”, a real American reality show on which animal rights activist Paul Watson and his team fend Japanese whalers off the coast of Antarctica. Yet he receives a surprise when he finds that Watson’s crew, self-proclaimed “bad-asses”, don’t actually do anything to help the cause and instead resort to making the Japanese vessels “stinky” by throwing sticks of old butter at them. After Watson is killed by being harpooned, Stan takes over as the new captain and begins to protect the cetaceans seriously; however, his efforts are unappreciated as Larry King and other members of the media believe he is only interested in creating a popular television show with high ratings.

The crew of "Whale Wars", captained by the incompetent Paul Watson.

The crew of "Whale Wars", captained by the incompetent Paul Watson.

The show is short-lived when Japanese kamikaze pilots crash into the ship and the whales around them, leaving only Stan, Cartman, and Kenny (the latter two who only joined because they wanted to be on television) to be taken hostage by the Japanese. They are then shown by Emperor Akihito a doctored photograph, which portrays the plane that bombed Hiroshima as having been piloted by a dolphin and a whale, explaining the Japanese’s hatred for them. Choosing not to reveal the truth for fear that it could incite another war between Japan and the U.S., Stan instead presents them with another doctored photo, in which the Enola Gay is actually being piloted by a chicken and a cow. Thus the episode ends with the Japanese attacking farms and yelling “F*** YOU CHICKEN!!!” and “F*** YOU COW!!!”. The Americans then dub the Japanese finally “normal, like us”.

The Enola Gay, piloted by a dolphin and a whale.

The Enola Gay, piloted by a dolphin and a whale.

South Park is successful in lampooning various topics, such as Japan’s “mindless” dolphin and whale killing spree, America’s media-based society, and other stereotypes about the two countries as well, such as Japan’s kamikaze attacks and America’s fast food nation. Although it risks offending many people due to the controversial nature of its topics, being a well-established and generally liked show, it manages to get away with much of its humor, as well as because subjects it raises are true and valid issues in the world about which we should be concerned. In fact, in response to the episode, Paul Watson stated that he was glad South Park was bringing attention to Japanese whaling and took no offense to being joked about (and killed) on the show. Others who have been satirized on the show have even claimed that one should be honored to be portrayed on South Park, because of how large it is in the U.S.

The almost lax, careless way the dolphins’ and whales’ murders are portrayed in the episode (random stabbing, as blood seeps through the water) shocked me at first, as previously I had not seen much South Park. I was still able to appreciate the sort of disturbing humor though, as I understood that much of the gruesomeness in this show comes out of truth. The primitive behavior of the Japanese, such as using spears rather than higher technology, broken English, and traditional rather than modern Japanese clothing add to the funniness of the situation because, as well-said in Avenue Q, “Ethnic jokes may be uncouth, but you laugh because they’re based on truth”. Indeed, a large factor in successful satirize lies in viewpoint; by clearly being aware of the inaccuracies of its stereotypes, “Whale Whores” is able to bring attention to important environmental issues without being criticized for its ignorance.

The Cove: Manipulation of Film as a Means of Persuasion

“The Cove”, a 2009 documentary directed by American photographer Louie Psihoyos, features the Japanese dolphin hunt in Taiji in an attempt to educate its audience about such happenings and the detrimental effects they bring upon the environment as well as humans. In 2010, it won numerous outstanding documentary awards, such as the Sundance Film Festival as well as an Academy Award.

What I found most notable about “The Cove” in terms of its identity as a documentary was the careful use of music and scene cut choices to really reach into the pathos of its viewers–aside from being informational, many scenes lacked dialogue, simply showing gruesome and inhumane moments of mass dolphin slaughter.

Another technique used by the filmmakers was beginning the documentary by demonstrating the friendliness, intelligence, and kindness of dolphins in order to create a kind of emotional connection with viewers before they witness their murders. In contrast, the Japanese dolphin hunters are portrayed as rude, heartless, and threatening; they are overgeneralized as a mass of money-hungry fishermen with no consideration or hesitance in slaughtering hundreds of dolphins at once or in separating baby dolphins as their parents are taken away and killed before their very eyes. In this sense, at times viewers may forget the documentary nature of the film as emotional drama is very much integrated into the storytelling, rather than fast hard facts. The documentary also begins with famed dolphin trainer turned dolphin rights activist Ric O’Barry recounting his experience with the suicide of one of the dolphins who played the role of Flipper, the namesake of a 1964 hit television series. O’Barry’s account of the incident is overtly dramatic, true as it may be, inciting a combination of sympathy and horror within its audience.

Ric O'Barry with Kathy, the dolphin who played Flipper who became depressed to the point of suicide.

The filmmakers are careful, however, not to put all of the blame on Japan as a whole. The documentary also presents the Japanese public’s lack of knowledge of this underground operation, while also highlighting the Japanese government officials’ harsh attempts to hide the truth; oftentimes it was easy to view the officials and fishermen as uncivilized, stupid, and barbaric. For example, the filmmakers are given a map by the government, with specific sections circled and marked with an “X”, as they are told not to go to those places–naturally, they keep this paper as both evidence against the officials as well as their stupidity in simply handing them a map of places they need to go for their investigation.

The concept of dolphin meat as food is not so emphasized in “The Cove” as much as dolphins’ commercial use as show animals in amusement parks. Yet this makes the explanation that live dolphins are worth thousands more dolphins than dead ones all the more horrific; the dolphins appear to be viewed by the fishermen as a commodity, rather than a living, sentient being.

As films in the documentary genre go, I believe “The Cove”
was successful in convincing viewers of which “side” to take, yet also extremely biased. Controversy over inaccuracies did arise after its screening, but above all else I felt that the inaccuracy lay in not lies, but in hidden truths and a refusal to mention certain facts that may sway audience opinions.

The Cove: Who Are The Victims?


The red sea of spilled blood

      The slaughtering that stains our sea a ghastly yet beautiful crimson red. The lingering stench of spilled blood that fills the atmosphere. The eerie stretch of silence that ensues the cacophony of heart-rending cries of the dolphins after every slaughter. The unsettling presence of death that haunts our sea where there used to be none. The manipulation of the society that leads to the consumption of mercury beyond the people’s knowledge. What does it take for us to be reminded of humanity? Louie Psihoyo’s documentary film, The Cove manifests the ugly reality behind the conspiracy revolving around the dolphin meat and entertainment industry situated in Taiji, Japan.

     Centered to emphasize the ramifications of human actions on the environment, The Cove reveals a team of American activists from different modes of professions coming together to expose the deadly slaughter of dolphins in a secret cove and the consequences of eating mercury-laden dolphin meat among the Japanese people. Throughout the film, the audiences are left to ponder about the idea of food as a manipulative tool and the role dolphins play in our natural lives: are they our food, friends or neither? It is indisputable that in this film, food poses itself as a powerful yet ironic reminder to us that we are human. We rely on food to survive and nourish our body but at the same time, food ironically can also be the culprit of our sufferings and diseases, which may bring upon death to ourselves. In other words, food is presented in this film, simply as it is, food. It can give us life, sustain our living and also kill us. It is merely an instrument often manipulated by us, humans in pursuit of power, wealth and status. In the village of Taiji, where 20,000 dolphins are captured and slaughtered every year with the government’s permission, the activists reveal how dolphin meat, though containing toxic levels of mercury are secretly sold as food in Japan, often labeled as whale meat.

      In a particular scene in The Cove, Psihoyo conveys the public’s reaction towards the discovery of how dolphin meat is distributed as food to the society through a series of documented interviews.


A woman on the streets remarked in disbelief when told that dolphin meat is eaten.

The Japanese society, oblivious to the fact that they are being fed with dolphin meat poisoned with high-level of mercury, are being denied the proper right to consume healthy food, even so when fish is regarded as the vital main source of food in Japan. This food injustice inflicted upon the Japanese people is then associated with the Minamata disease, a degenerative neurological disorder caused by extreme mercury poisoning that may result in coma, insanity, paralysis and even death. This scenario reflects distinctively how food is manipulated solely for the benefit of the distributors despite the detrimental effects it brings to our health and environment.

     Through the projection of vivid images as well as footages of the dolphin slaughters and captivity in the film, Psihoyo accentuates the need for a change to bring awareness about humanity, food injustice and animal cruelty among the people. It is evident to see that the film portrays dolphins as victims of the situation, underlining the fact that food deliberately becomes the victims of the society’s unbecoming actions. Food in this case, plays the role as victims of traditions and customs. In The Cove, the dolphin hunting in Taiji was argued to be an ancient tradition of the Japanese and the fishermen merely defended themselves by claiming that they are only killing dolphins for the preservation of tradition. Food too has become victims of the industrialization and modernization of our society, demonstrated through the toxic-level mercury found to be in the dolphin meat due to pollution. Playing the role of victims of human’s boredom and lack of entertainment, dolphins are too captured and held in captivity in marine parks as a form of entertainment that became famous after Ric O’Barry’s 1960’s television series named “Flipper”.


Ric O'Barry and Flipper

The pain and suffering that the dolphins went through in captivity was depicted in the film through O’Barry’s painful recollection of how one of his dolphins committed a form of suicide in his very own arms by closing her blowhole voluntarily in order to suffocate herself to death. Reifying the ugly truth of humanity or rather what has become of it, The Cove identifies food as victims of our own actions, conveying a powerful reminder that we are human after all. What we do to our food, our nature, we do to ourselves.

Genre, Rhetoric and Music in The Cove

The Cove is a ninety minute long documentary released in 2009 exposing the dolphin fishing industry and it’s practices in Taiji. Louie Psihoyos, the film’s director, uses his own potent photography to frame his position on moral ground and brief cut scenes to deliver factual credibility. Genre controls the perception of the dolphin slaughters throughout the film. Psihoyos flips between three different modes of communication: the redemption story of Ric O’Barry, the gruesome display of dolphin killings, and the action story of the films production itself. The use of  specific music genres to effectively to pinpoint the mode of rhetoric employed allow Psihoyos to communicate his story on multiple fronts.

"We were kinda like a rock concert, incognito"

The spy story is where music genre stands out the most in The Cove. One expects to be given factual information or ethos throughout a documentary and the use of short action sequences provides a counterpoint to the pacific shots of dolphins and re-engages the viewer on a different tack. The soundtrack and audio used in these shots are the work of J. Ralph, whose other notable works include Lucky Number Slevin and Chasing Ice—  an action film and tense documentary. One notable moment in The Cove where the use of music drives the genre perception is the “team recruitment scene.” While team members are recruited to join on Ric O’Barry’s dolphin espionage mission, an electronic, synth-heavy undertoe of sound pulls the viewer away from the factual data provided before into this new genre. The music makes the heart race and prepares the audience for a climatic moment. It’s not the audio that one expects from a dolphin story, rather, the notes seem pulled from “Minefields” by The Prodigy in The Matrix. Sounds open up new mechanisms of interaction between the audience and the film, one of anticipation and excitement. The electronic high hats and drum machines signal that something awesome is going to happen, and we are going to be there watching every detail when it does.

No commentary is necessary for this image to rally viewers to Ric O'Barry's cause

We can contrast this to the audio soundtrack presented to us during the dolphin slaughter. There is a noticeable lack of music in these shots; it doesn’t seem as if these scenes were polished at all. The perception one receives is that of uncut, unedited, raw footage. This, combined with the graininess of image, the shriek of wounded dolphins, the roar of motors and the hum of unfiltered audio create a new environment. It’s unsanitary, rough, unrefined. It’s a perception of image without commentary, without slant or redirection. Psihoyos wants the image to speak for itself, and he wants the audiencethat this is a pure, unfiltered view of the rawness in the world. Psihoyos’s ability to use solely image to convey message is highlighted here, and his past experience with camera work at National Geographic shines through. The message is in the production, or the apparent lack thereof. It confronts the viewer as an point-of-view documentary. The viewer is shut in to watch, and cannot leave, and nothing but a pane of glass separates the camera from the real world.
Psihoyos delicately combines image with audio in The Cove to amplify the perceptions of genre throughout the film. By matching rhetoric to genre, Psihoyos is able employ a full arsenal of persuasive techniques in an effective manner, exploiting every avenue to deliver a message.

The Truth Behind Food: The Cruelty Behind its Aesthetic Outer Appearance

The Cove is a documentary film that focuses on Taiji, Japan’s dolphin industry. In this movie, Ric O’Barry, former dolphin trainer in the 1960s who captured and trained 5 dolphins to play the international popular television series “Flipper”, has come to realize the danger and cruelty of capturing and using dolphins for human entertainment purposes. After a long search of redemption, he came across Taiji, Japan and discovered a shocking secret behind Taiji’s mysteries and playful dolphins industry. On the outside, Taiji seemed to be engaging in a wonderland of dolphin entertainment performances; however, in a more remote cove near Taiji, surrounded by barbed wires and signs that say “keep out” showed a dark and cruel reality. Ric O’Barry discovers that the fishermen of Taiji, motivated by a multi-billion dollar dolphin entertainment industry and illegally selling mercury-tainted dolphin meat, hunt dolphins in the cove during nighttime. Because those fishermen knew the danger and nature of their actions, which is hurting the dolphins and human health, they are willing to do anything to prevent anyone from discovering their darkest secret. Ric O’Barry, upon learning this truth, gathers many colleagues who shared the same passion and goals as himself, and devised many plans to try to rescue the dolphins and expose the dark reality of the Taiji dolphin industry to the public. They are willing to go through great lengths in order to save the dolphins and human lives.

The dolphin meat that was falsely advertised as expensive whale meat

The Cove’s relation to food is not like any other usual movies or films, which usually illustrate the aesthetic and beauty of food and advertise the deliciousness of the cuisines, instead, this documentary film is not hesitant to publicly demonstrate the food in another angle, its ugly and cruel side. In The Cove, Ric O’Barry and his other colleagues discover the high amount of mercury, which is extremely harmful to human health, is hidden inside the dolphin meat that Taiji fishermen use to sell to other markets in other parts of Japan. Ric

Ric O'Barry interviewed random Tokyo pedestrians to see if they knew dolphin meat was sold

O’Barry and his crew interviewed random pedestrians in Tokyo and asked them whether they knew the meat they eat everyday are actually dolphin meat with dangerous amount of mercury; to many Japanese people’s surprise, they admitted that they have no idea what kind of meat they are consuming. They are not afraid to expose the truth and dark secret behind the delicious looking and aesthetically beautiful Japanese meal. This illustrates that food may look pretty on the outside, but it in fact may be really ugly on the inside.

Another scene that demonstrates the point of food is not always as pretty as it looks is during the short excerpt from the Minamata Disease. Minamata Disease is a neurological syndrome due to extreme mercury poisoning; it can greatly affect the physical appearance and mentality of those who were infected. The release of methylmercury in the industrial wastewater from the Chisso Corporation’s chemical factory was what caused the Minamata Disease in the first place. These

The victims who suffer from the Minamata Disease

extremely toxic chemicals got into the shellfish and sea animals that the people of Minamata consume for survival and thus affected those who came in contact

with the seafood. The Cove incorporated the Minamata Disease excerption into its documentary film to depict the danger and cruelty of underhand selling of mercury filled dolphin meat to other people. This also further shows that the aesthetically appealing food and/or cuisine that people always see may have a dark and cruel side behind it.

The Cove is unlike any other documentary film; it is very educational and informative in terms of exposing the real truth behind the supposedly wonderful dolphin entertainment industry and appetizing seafood. Its method of showing everything to the public make others realize that people may need to think twice before they decide to do anything, including the next time they see good and delicious food because behind its aesthetic outer appearance, the cruel and ugly truth may lie.