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The Cove (2009) - Plot Summary Poster

(2009)

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Summaries

  • Using state-of-the-art equipment, a group of activists, led by renowned dolphin trainer Ric O'Barry, infiltrate a cove near Taijii, Japan to expose both a shocking instance of animal abuse and a serious threat to human health.

  • Richard O'Barry was the man who captured and trained the dolphins for the television show Flipper (1964). O'Barry's view of cetaceans in captivity changed from that experience when as the last straw he saw that one of the dolphins playing Flipper - her name being Kathy - basically committed suicide in his arms because of the stress of being in captivity. Since that time, he has become one of the leading advocates against cetaceans in captivity and for the preservation of cetaceans in the wild. O'Barry and filmmaker 'Louie Psihoyos (I)' go about trying to expose one of what they see as the most cruel acts against wild dolphins in the world in Taiji, Japan, where dolphins are routinely corralled, either to be sold alive to aquariums and marine parks, or slaughtered for meat. The primary secluded cove where this activity is taking place is heavily guarded. O'Barry and Psihoyos are well known as enemies by the authorities in Taiji, the authorities who will use whatever tactic to expel the two from Japan forever. O'Barry, Psihoyos and their team covertly try to film as a document of conclusive evidence this cruel behavior. They employ among others Hollywood cameramen and deep sea free divers. They also highlight what is considered the dangerous consumption of dolphin meat (due to its high concentration of mercury) which is often sold not as dolphin meat, and the Japanese government's methodical buying off of poorer third world nations for their support of Japan's whaling industry, that support most specifically at the International Whaling Commission.

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  • In Taiji, Japan, local fishermen hide a gruesome secret: the capture and slaughter of dolphins. Activist Richard O'Barry, who trained dolphins for the Flipper (1964) TV series, joins forces with filmmaker Louie Psihoyos and the Ocean Preservation Society to expose the brutal practice, risking life and limb in the process.

  • In the 1960's, Richard O'Barry was the world's leading authority on dolphin training, working on the set of the popular television program Flipper. Day in and day out, O'Barry kept the dolphins working and television audiences smiling. But one day, that all came to a tragic end. Winner of the 2010 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • The film follows former dolphin trainer and activist Ric O'Barry's quest to document the dolphin hunting operations in Taiji, Wakayama, Japan. In the 1960s, O'Barry helped capture and train the five wild dolphins who shared the role of "Flipper" in the hit television series of the same name. The show, very popular, fueled widespread public adoration of dolphins, influencing the development of marine parks that included dolphins in their attractions. After one of the dolphins, in O'Barry's opinion, committed a form of suicide in his arms by closing her blowhole voluntarily in order to suffocate, O'Barry came to see the dolphin's captivity and the dolphin capture industry as a curse, not a blessing. Days later, he was arrested off the island of Bimini, attempting to cut a hole in the sea pen in order to set free a captured dolphin. Since then, according to the film, O'Barry has dedicated himself full-time as an advocate on behalf of dolphins around the world.

    After meeting with O'Barry, Psihoyos and his crew travel to Taiji, Japan, a town that appears to be devoted to dolphins and whales. In a nearby, isolated cove, however, surrounded by wire fences and "Keep Out" signs, an activity takes place that the townspeople attempt to hide from the public. In the cove, a group of Taiji fishermen engage in dolphin drive hunting. The film states that the dolphin hunt is, in large part, motivated by the tremendous revenue generated for the town by selling some of the captured dolphins, female bottlenose dolphins, to aquariums and marine parks and killing the majority of the rest. The dolphins that are not sold into captivity are then slaughtered in the cove and the meat is sold in supermarkets. According to the evidence presented in the film, the local Japanese government officials are involved in the hiding of the hunting, and the Japanese public is not fully aware of the hunt and the marketing of dolphin meat. The film states that the dolphin meat contains dangerously high levels of mercury and interviews two local politicians, Taiji city councilors who have, for that reason, advocated the removal of dolphin meat from local school lunches.

    Attempts to view or film the dolphin killing in the cove are physically blocked by local police and the Japanese local government who treat the visitors with open intimidation, derision, and anger. Foreigners who come to Taiji, including The Cove's film crew, are shadowed and questioned by local police. In response, together with the Oceanic Preservation Society, Psihoyos, O'Barry, and the crew utilize special tactics and technology to covertly film what is taking place in the cove. The film also reports on Japan's alleged "buying" of votes of poor nations in the International Whaling Commission. The film indicates that while Dominica has withdrawn from the IWC, Japan has recruited the following nations to its whaling agenda: Cambodia, Ecuador, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Kiribati, Laos, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. At the end of the film, O'Barry shows footage of the Taiji dolphin slaughter to a Japanese official, after the official repeatedly denies the incident; he is unmoved by the footage and asks O'Barry where he obtained it. The film then cuts to a scene showing an annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission. O'Barry marches into a meeting of the Commission strapping a TV showing the footage on his chest (while the Japanese delegates are talking about how they have improved whaling tactics). O'Barry walks around the crowded meeting room displaying the images until he is escorted from the room.

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