The filmmakers follow Richard O’Barry as he takes them around Taijii, Japan. He comes across as a paranoid conspiracy theorist early on. O’Barry wears a Sars mask and hunches over as he drives to fool Japanese police as they drive by. The town of Taijii, Japan seems particularly harmless, even endearing in many ways. They seem to be obsessed with dolphins. The town is full of statues of dolphins and whales, boats are made in the shape of dolphins and whales, there is a whale museum. O’Barry, however, hates that place.
And just who is Richard? Well, he used to be one of the most foremost dolphin trainers in the world. He captured and trained the five dolphins that played Flipper. O’Barry shares a touching story of one of the dolphins dying in his arms. Dolphins are, according to some, deliberate breathers. They can simply not take another breathe. He describes it as a suicide, and some may balk at this, but the intelligence of dolphins is not exactly up for debate. But it helps you understand O’Barry’s passion.
The film challenges the captivity of dolphins quite heavily. And seeing Dolphins in their natural environment makes a strong case that they do not belong in small tanks. And what does that have to do with Taijii, Japan? Well, Taijii is where many of the worlds zoos, water parks and “swim with the Dolphins” parks get their dolphins. Every September, Japanese fisherman coral thousands of dolphins into a cove. Trapped in that cove, buyers pick the best dolphins and purchase them. It’s a very lucrative business($150,000 for a live show dolphin). You can watch this from the road. But, hidden away, in a separate cove the even larger horror occurs afterward. Little was known before the cove was released. The Cove in question is hidden away and closely guarded.
So, the filmmakers put together a special team to create unique hidden cameras and secret ops mission to bring the slaughter of the Cove to the public. Military, special effects experts, world class free divers, concert techs…all came together. And If Rick O’Barry seems paranoid, it becomes clear he is paranoid with good reason. They are clearly being filmed and followed by Japanese police. Then the fisherman show up. They try blocking the cameras and then block the crew, so they could not get a better look.
They do major recon and preparation to capture something few people are ever allowed to see.
It’s a gut wrenching film. The sea is filled with amazing and wonderfully creatures. Among them are dolphins. One of the tragedies is the fact that most of Japan is unaware of this. The film finds many Japanese shocked to hear anyone would even eat dolphins. But in Taijii? It was served in schools. This is a health issue, not solely an animal cruelty one. The film is full of horror and tragedy. It’s tough to watch. The film culminates is allowing us to witness the dolphin slaughter. Simply put, it is nauseating.
But the final moments are inspiring, hopeful…vindicating.
The film made me ask some questions…
We know serial killers start with animals…it is there that they deaden themselves to killing. And I have come to believe that how we treat animals is reflective as to how we will ultimately treat each other. And more so…where is the passion of the religious? The environment, which is also known as creation to most religious people…seems not to be passionate…
I do not understand how people that think creation is evidence of God are so willing to turn a blind eye to its destruction in the name of capitalism and not “hindering businesses”.
How is creation, if it is evidence of God and a creator…how can people of faith be so casual about casting it aside…I just cannot connect with a notion that it does not matter.
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And…there is something kind of magical about watching dolphins swim set to Bowie’s Heroes.