Saturday, 12 September 2009

The Cove - environmental espionage?

Yesh, I'm slow. Just managed to catch "The Cove" with sonnenblume yesterday. It was also kinda apt that I was just reading the news on how Day 1 of the hunt at Taiji was slaughter free, whilst I was on my way to meet her at PS. And am kinda glad that I'm "re-activating" this blog by discussing this docu-movie.... Was supposed to put this up last night but Delphine (that's my 5 year-old IBM) wasn't cooperative... So glad I was still able to capture some of my immediate thoughts on my trusty Touch ^__^
the cove - movie poster

My first impressions when I heard about this movie was that it was gonna be kinda another Sharkwater.... Albeit about dolphins instead of sharks. But alas, first impressions are just that. First impressions. The Cove came out more balanced (in terms of view points), as well as seemingly more objective than Sharkwater. Why seemingly? Mainly because it *is* still mainly a Western perspective of the issues at stake.... But definitely more balanced than Sharkwater. Not that I'm slamming Sharkwater or anything. Sharkwater definitely helped in increasing the awareness on the sharks' plight, even if I felt that their approach was a bit too aggressive and extreme. OPS on the other hand, toed the law (possibly broke quite a few) to get video and sound footage to show the world what was happening in Taiji. This small town in Japan's Wakayama prefecture has been making headlines (at least to me) every year on the dolphin hunt. Would say that every year, without fail, I would be watching depressing Youtube footage of these hunts. But those were random snippets of what was going on there. Nothing quite so coherent as what the OPS team and Ric O'Barry risked life and limb for.

Where Sharkwater did a head-on almost head-to-head confrontation with the shark finning industries, The Cove was more of an adventure into stealth and espionage. The snippet on their FB page puts it really succinctly:
Winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, The Cove follows a high-tech dive team on a mission to discover the truth about the international dolphin capture trade as practiced in Taiji, Japan. Utilizing state-of-the-art techniques, including hidden microphones and cameras in fake rocks, the team uncovers how this small seaside village serves as a horrifying microcosm of massive ecological crimes happening worldwide.

The Cove exposes not only the tragedy of dolphin slaughtering in Japan, but also the dangerously high levels of mercury in dolphin meat and seafood, the cruelty in capturing dolphins for entertainment, and the depletion of our ocean’s fisheries by worldwide seafood consumption. We also see how the mandate of the International Whaling Commission has been manipulated by the Japanese Fisheries Agency for its benefit and its subsequent effect on the rest of the world.

That is inherently what The Cove is all about. It is NOT about showing the world the cruelty of these Japanese fishermen, the inhumane slaughter. Part of it is. Kinda. Especially after the intro about Ric O'Barry's days on the Flipper set, and how he turned activist after being on the "darkside" (aka dolphin trainer). BUT, more importantly, I like how other angles of the issue were explored. Like how IWC only covers large ceteceans, and how the issue about bio-accumulation of mercury in ceteceans was generally ignored....

So at least the "killing" section of the hunt seems to be on the winning end... What about the captures for oceanariums/aquariums/dolphinariums? In some ways, they are kinda "necessary evils". Like zoos and the like. How else would the general public get a chance to be up close and personal with these animals? To touch base. To have the same sense of space. And from there, feel for them and their plight. Personally, I wouldn't even think too much about aquariums being too small for large pelagics like whales and dolphins and whale sharks,if not for encountering them in the wild. And yes, I mean the little bit of "wild", that's right here in SG.

Taken off Semakau in June 2009. Courtesy of Karenne Tun.

However, the show is not without it's flaws. The main portion that I really felt was kinda skewed was the section on the interviews they carried out in Tokyo, about whether other Japanese are aware of what's going on in Taiji. I may be wrong, but the logic of those interviews came across as "How can dolphin hunting be a tradition if the rest of Japan doesn't know about it?". Two main issues I have about that. (1)Tokyo is the epitome of modernized Japan, and as with most of the modernized world and countries, there would definitely be some lost in knowledge of culture and traditions. (2)Taiji is a SMALL fishing town/village. Many rural villages have their own local traditions and customs that other parts of the country may not know about. Furthermore, it appears that whale hunting etc. HAS been the villagers' way of life for centuries. At this point in time it would probably be difficult to check with the town if the hunts are truly remnants of their traditional past, as this is gonna be a really touchy issue, with all the bad publicity and all.....

But all in all, it IS a good watch, and definitely a wake up call. At least for those of us who feel that they have a connection to the sea. How many of you out there actually stop to think about how and where do we get our animals in zoos and aquariums? And about how captivity is like for them.... Just my thoughts and all.... Docu-movies like The Cove and Sharkwater ARE a dose of reality amidst all the other run-of-the-mill movies that transport us into the world of story telling....

Taken off Semakau in June 2009. Courtesy of Karenne Tun.

Not even sure if I covered what I wanted to be said and shared... But if you're wondering what YOU can do, firstly, if you haven't caught the movie, go catch it. Preferably bring a friend too. Blog about your thoughts. Write in to you local Japanese embassy (but do be polite!) Read more on the official movie website or here. Write into OPS and/or Ric O'Barry to give encouragement and/or thanks. Sign to petition to WAZA. The list goes on. If this has made some sort of impact to you, get creative and do something positive for the dolphins! ^__^
Click for the rambling...