Tl;dr – The Cove is “Bowling for Columbine” for dolphins.
Okay, here we go. Every couple of years, a documentary comes around that is touted as “important” – a word that in the film industry is code for “soul-crushing”. In 2009, that movie was The Cove. To no one’s surprise, it won the Oscar for Best Documentary and, like most “important” documentaries, large-toothed men in non-black suits and cowboy hats accused it of being fabricated propaganda. But all that is neither here nor there.
What is both here and there is that you should really probably watch this movie.
First, a little clarification: I wouldn’t call myself a “dolphin-lover”. I don’t own a sweet-ass dolphin necklace or a poster or a Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper. I’ve never even been to Sea World. In fact, when I think about dolphins, the first thing that comes to mind is this bizarre half-formed memory of being sick and shitting my pants while watching Flipper when I was little (it was last week). This is not to say that I’m dolphin-ignorant. I’ve seen Planet Earth. I’m fully aware that dolphins are one set of thumbs away from sending us back to the fuckin’ trees. I guess I’d describe my emotional relationship to dolphins as one of cautious respect.
That being said, The Cove straight fucked me up. Plus, now I’m totally gay for dolphins.
Here’s the skinny: In the 1960s a dude named Ric O’Barry captured and trained the dolphins that played Flipper (ugh…there’s that feeling again…gross). Basically, Flipper did for dolphins what the Taco Bell dog did for chihuahuas – people went batshit. So insatiable was the public’s appetite for frolicking, subservient dolphins that the marine entertainment industry exploded overnight.
Fast forward a few years. After some incredibly uncool shit goes down (which I won’t spoil for you), Ric O’Barry comes to the realization that this multi-billion dollar industry that he had a hand in creating is completely fucked up on every level imaginable so he does what anyone would do – he becomes a crazy-ass activist.
Director Louie Psihoyos and a group of guerrilla filmmakers team up with O’Barry and head to Taiji, Japan – the hub of the dolphin industry where every September, during their migration, dolphins are herded into a “secret cove” and captured by local fishermen. Some are sold to trainers and parks and some are sold for food. And according to O’Barry, shit gets pretty fucked.
In a shocking twist, O’Barry is not an insane person. Everything he said is true. After infiltrating the cove under the cover of darkness and setting up hidden cameras, the filmmakers capture events so flat-out abhorrent, they must be seen to be believed.
Ultimately, my list of reasons you should watch The Cove reads a lot like a list of reasons not to. I’m not going to lie to you – it’s a huge fucking bummer. But it’s an important bummer. You should really watch it.
I give it 5 out of 5 perfect spirals from Dan Marino. (Get it? He played for the Miami Dolphins. I’m trying to butch up after this teary sniffle-fest.)