The Cove

>> Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I had wanted to see this back in September after reading the FireDogLake chat with Louie Psihoyos, the director of The Cove. Unfortunately, it wasn't playing anywhere near me because it had played a few weeks earlier in SLC unbeknownst to me.

So I watched it on dvd. Kind of a shame since the underwater photography is so beautiful that it really should be seen on the big screen, but films like these are why documentaries have become so popular. It doesn't just focus on the dolphin slaughter (the water literally becomes so red with blood that you can see it 100 feet in the air), which they show at the end, but also on international whaling politics, history of mercury poisoning in Japan, government corruption and the odd group working together to expose this slaughter.

It's kind of funny seeing the group of people that worked to bring this about including prop makers from Industrial Light and Magic and a pair of free divers. I had never heard of free diving before, but they mentioned in the film that one free diver could dive 300 feet deep and back on one breath! It's one of those skills that normally you'd think they wouldn't be able to use in life, but for this film it was essential in order to place the underwater cameras. Scuba gear wouldn't have worked.

This is a film that couldn't have been made 10 years ago. It's the small and compact nature of digital cameras that allowed these events to be filmed and in such excellent picture quality. The thermal camera they use is a little weird to watch at first, but as they mentioned in the special features, they wouldn't have been able to get their cameras in place without being caught by a policeman and subsequently deported.

The mercury issue, as mentioned in the film, completely destroys any argument for killing the dolphins for their meat. One of the special features on the dvd is an 18-minute segment on mercury. The most interesting point was when they interviewed a bunch of Japanese scientists about mercury. None wanted to be speaking on camera because their funding comes from the government. When they took these scientists out to lunch at a sushi restaurant, none of them ate any sushi. Director Louie Psihoyos said that before he made this film he used to eat fish all the time. He had his blood tested to see what his mercury levels were at the suggestion of the Japanese scientists. He no longer eats as much fish as he used to. Makes me glad that I don't eat fish very often.

There was some talk last summer when this was released that it might receive a Best Picture nomination since there are 10 nominations for that category this year. I would love it if it happened, particularly since some people are put off by the idea of watching this due to the dolphin slaughter footage, but I know it's highly unlikely. That footage is perhaps three or four minutes maximum. The most striking thing you see is how red the water becomes. Really, it's like looking at a small, red sea.

Learn more about the world depicted in “The Cove” at Take Part.


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