What do you do when politicians, unions, the news media, environmentalists and others know about a big social problem, but refuse to do anything about it? Why, you gather together some high-tech equipment, assemble a crack team of techies, activists and divers, infiltrate the hidden secret and then present the documented evidence to the world. That is exactly what director Louie Psihoyos has done with this film, "The Cove", taking guerrilla filmmaking to a higher level and earning all the accolades that this film has been getting.
In this case, the "hidden secret" is the capturing and slaughtering of thousands of dolphins each year in the small fishing town of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. The lead protagonist in the film is dolphin trainer Ric O'Barry of "Flipper" fame, who is public enemy No. 1 in Taiji for his open opposition to the dolphin killing. He's also not real popular among the aquarium-type theme parks (called the "captivity industry") worldwide that do big business buying dolphins directly from Taiji.
So to document the slaughter, the use of hidden cameras in the nearby woods, a sound recorder in the cove of Taiji and a remote-controlled helicopter are creatively employed. To pull it off, of course, you need experts in their craft to carry out the missions and avoid getting busted by the Japanese police. In fact, looking at the documentary as a whole, it's amazing how the filmmaking team even managed to get it all done and get the movie into theaters and onto DVD in the first place.
To help balance things out in "The Cove" there is also coverage of the International Whaling Commission gatherings (useless though they are) as well as an interview with a Japanese government official in Tokyo. Two local politicians in Taiji, at great risk to themselves, also offer a few comments on camera about toxic dolphin meat in Japanese school lunches.
Two issues come up in this film: the brutal treatment of dolphins (in Taiji and elsewhere), and the high rate of mercury found in dolphin meat in Japan that people are eating. In other words, animal rights and human welfare. The film does a good job of presenting those two issues as equally important and worthy of our attention and action.
For me, "The Cove" represents guerrilla filmmaking at its best and shows us the future possibilities for broadening even more this Renaissance of documentary filmmaking that we see happening around the world these days. The excellent editing of various dolphin footage and a top-notch musical soundtrack also help to make this a movie that should not be missed. Prepare to be informed and shocked by what you see here.