Posted on Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009 by Russ Fischer
For any documentarian who makes a film about an injustice there can’t be much greater end result than seeing change take place in the real world once the film is released. This summer’s doc The Cove, by Louie Psihoyos, peered into Taiji, a small Japanese village where thousands of dolphins are slaughtered each year. Ric O’Barry, the dolphin trainer and activist who brought the location to the attention of Psihoyos, returned to the site of the slaughter this week, just as the annual ‘hunt’ would normally begin. He found a situation that pleased him greatly.
What was happening in Taiji is this: local fishermen would corral dolphins in a small cove, pick the best to be sold to trainers (prices fetching sometimes above $150,000) and then slaughter the rest. The meat would then be sold in Japan, often labeled as another animal. Dolphin meat is often tainted by far more than the legal limit of mercury, and much of the meat ended up in Japanese schools. And, as others have to the slaughter of elephants and gorillas, O’Barry reacted with horror at the killing of an intelligent species. Japanese media refused to cover the story, and security in the cove is tight. So in 2007 Psihoyos filmed the slaughter with specially designed clandestine cameras.
O’Barry posted yesterday from Taiji, Japan, where he arrived to find no dolphin hunters and actual coverage from the Japanese media.
These TV stations have REFUSED to cover the story in Taiji for years and years. NOW, for the first time, they have shown up, with cameras rolling. The head policeman talking with me even said, for the cameras, that the police are not there to support the dolphin killing fishermen. We shook hands, and they left. As I said, it is a good day for the dolphins. And for me personally, as the police only wanted to talk with me, not arrest me!
O’Barry also describes an effort to rehab Taiji’s image. He mentions Nantucket Island in Massachusetts, once the epicenter of whaling in the US and now an effective memorial to the rampant practice and a viable tourist destination.
There’s no question that media attention is a deterrent to the hunt, but really, whatever it takes. If the film has actually had this effect and stopped the dolphin killing, it will join The Thin Blue Line by Errol Morris as one of the more remarkably effective documentaries available. Removing an unjustly convicted man from prison and saving thousands of dolphins are both amazing results.