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cinemdaily | “The Cove” Comes Home

cinemdaily | "The Cove" Comes Home

After a theatrical run that did not live up to the many awards it has won at festivals across the world (it also just won the best documentary award from the National Board of Review), “The Cove” comes home on DVD today. Philip French of The Guardian sums up the film, “In the 1960s, the handsome, charismatic Richard O’Barry trained the performing dolphins used in the popular, long-running American television series “Flipper,” which resulted in the creation of dolphinariums the world over. He then did a complete volte-face and for the past 35 years has been attempting to undo his work by using all means possible to keep dolphins from being captured and exploited. He is an articulate, middle-aged man, exuding an undemonstrative decency and this picture records how he gathered an intrepid team of film-makers, divers, electronics experts and special-ops people who infiltrated the Japanese fishing port of Taiji to record and expose its dirty secret.” He goes on to call the film “a first-rate heist movie in which the good guys are the gang and the bad guys the supposed honest citizens upholding law and order.”

The Arizona Republic‘s Kerry Lengel praises the film’s use of the thriller genre, saying “The tone isn’t exactly light, but these narrative devices of plot and character are exactly what the film needs to draw viewers in and prepare them for the gruesome climax. That footage is only minutes long but hard to sit through. The whole point of the spy caper is to get people to do just that. And, then, to do something more. Because the one thing these creative filmmakers cannot give their story is a happy ending.”

Lisa Kennedy‘s review in the Denver Post concludes, “‘The Cove’ is one of the best in a growing class of nonfiction films. Ostensibly they’re about natural resources and the environment. At their finest, these films insist humans think about what kind of ethical relationship we wish to forge, not just with the globe’s other species but also with one another.”

The film, however, does have its detractors. John Harti critiques the film in the Seattle Times, “The first-time director, Louie Psihoyos, makes room for arguments on both sides, though in the end he’s obviously with the dolphins and the activists. Psihoyos treats it as a given that dolphins, because they’re smart and adorable, deserve more protection than other animals.” In the Washington Times, Sonny Bunch says, “Despite their special pleading, it’s unclear why these (admittedly beautiful and interesting) creatures should be treated any differently from cows…What the pair of environmentalists should have allocated more of their screen time to is the degradation of the dolphin stock due to mercury poisoning and the danger that poses to the Japanese people.”

On About.com, Ivana Redwine recommends the DVD’s special features. He starts, “‘The Cove’ DVD provides a feature-length audio commentary by director Louie Psihoyos and producer Fisher Stevens that you’ll want to listen to if the documentary caught your fancy. Psihoyos says he took seven trips to Japan over 18 months to make the movie and shot more than 700 hours of footage. He urges viewers to avoid going to parks where dolphins are kept in captivity — the filmmakers consider this to be animal abuse. Also, Psihoyos claims that the main thing Japanese people get upset about in the film is that an American guy is shown indoors standing on a tatami mat while wearing shoes.”

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