Cove Director Louie Psihoyos at The Asia Society

April 17th, 2010

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On March 9th, just two days after The Cove won the Oscar for best feature documentary, the plush theater at The Asia Society in New York was packed with eager New Yorkers waiting to see The Cove, followed by a discussion between the film’s director, Louie Psihoyos, and environmental journalist, Andrew Revkin.

The Cove opens with an extrasensory montage; infrared images of oil derricks, factories, and the heavy machinery of industry, a “Twilight Zone” world—contemporary industrial society—perhaps as perceived by special sensitivities; its underlying mechanisms and menacing absurdities; its inhumanity.

Suddenly, like a birth, we land in the technicolor world of the film’s primary crime scene, Taiji, Japan, as Louie Psihoyos, as narrator, introduces us to the film’s principle player, activist Ric O’Barry.

Psihoyos contacted O’Barry after attending a Reefs Conference where O’Barry was scheduled to speak, but was then pulled from the program by the conference’s sponsor, Sea World, an organization O’Barry opposes at every turn.

O’Barry sent Psihoyos a short video he’d made, entitled Welcome to Taiji, documenting the annual killing of over 23,000 dolphins in Taiji dolphin. Although O’Barry has been devoted to dolphin activism for over forty years, in his own words “I’m like a monomaniac about this one cove, the size of a football field, in Taiji.”

Days later, Psihoyos flew to Taiji to meet O’Barry and shoot footage for what would later become The Cove, nature photographer Psihoyos’ first film. “I was called do this,” he told me during the Asia Society reception. “I’m not that much of a spiritual type, but the universe had a hand in this. . . let’s just say I was not planning to get into film before this.”

Psihoyos has an enduring passion for the oceans and ocean creatures. He directs the Oceanic Preservation Society, a non-profit organization. He considers the moratorium on whaling “the greatest psychological achievement of the last century.”

The Cove received major funding from Jim Clark, Psihoyos’ long-time billionaire friend. Once they’d reviewed and discussed the initial footage, a feature-length production was underway. “I started to get creative in a way I never thought possible. . . . . I wanted this film to inspire a legion of activists. . . . We made this film to give the oceans a voice. All the oceans are in peril.”

Both Psihoyos and O’Barry are confident that the film and its associated campaigns will effectively end the slaughter in Taiji. They explain that it will not be stopped on an animal rights issue, nor an environmental issue, but on the human health issue, because human beings are consuming mercury laden dolphin meat, sometimes falsely labeled and sold as tuna or some other fish. Psihoyos said a doctor explained to him that Mercury poisoning erases what it means to be human. You lose your senses; you lose your memory. But, he explains, it seems too controversial a subject to report on in the press.

The Cove crew took great personal risks to bring the film’s messages to the world. Tenderness for dolphins and other creatures is behind this courage and the strategic persistence necessary in any activist struggle. “This movie is a love letter,” Psihoyos tells his audiences.

In winning the Oscar for The Cove, Psihoyos “hit a home run the first time up at bat,” in the words of Ric O'Barry. Revkin asked, “Do I sense a sequel?” Psihoyos is now at work on his next film, a documentary about the Holocene extinction, the massive planetary loss of species and biodiversity that is manmade and continually exacerbated by human behavior.

Psihoyos calls upon his audiences to act, “once you have this information, what are you going to do with it?” In an interview with Amy Kaufman of the L.A. Times on Oscar night, he said, “The Cove is a microcosm of this 5-alarm disaster that’s facing all marine life. Through pollution and plundering and acidication, we’re doing what no wild animal would do: we’re fouling our own nest. It’s a microcosm of this much bigger issue.”

I was reminded of a brief scene in The Cove in which it was said that O’Barry once rescued two dolphins from a small concrete pool filled with their own excrement. Perhaps this is an image for us to keep in mind.

©Jari Chevalier

Listen to the April 1 Living Hero podcast for our Interview with Ric O'Barry.

Watch the Asia Society video here.

The Oceanic Preservation Society site.

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Interview with Ric O’Barry

April 1st, 2010

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"We never heard of another wild animal coming out of the jungle and saving a life of a human. But there are many stories of dolphins doing that. That's communication. That is communication. That is altruism." —Ric O'Barry

Ric has devoted the last 40 years of his life to freeing dolphins from captivity and to educating people throughout the world about these highly conscious, intelligent, and emotional creatures. Most recently his campaign to end the annual dolphin hunt and slaughter in Taiji, Japan, became the subject of The Cove, a brilliant film that won the Oscar for best feature documentary this year.

As a young man, O'Barry captured, trained, and lived with the dolphins who played Flipper in the popular TV series. He experienced a powerful epiphany when the lead dolphin died in his arms. Ever since that day in 1970, he has been arrested many times and risked his life in his quest to protect dolphins from hunters and to release captive dolphins back into the wild. He is author of To Save a Dolphin and Behind the Dolphin Smile. I urge you to listen to this amazing man!

We talked about:

Dolphins in the wild and in captivity ● A man in a tank and living with Flipper ● Communicating with dolphins ● Flipper's death and Ric's epiphany ● Going to jail for liberating dolphins ● The Big Lie and the Schizophrenic Cove ● Why the slaughter? ● Toxic dolphin meat and contaminated oceans ● Rehabilitating dolphins (or not) ● Dolphin trauma and madness ● Making The Cove documentary ● The Japanese cover-up and the power of "Gaiatsu" ● Activism: what works? ● How can we listeners help stop the slaughter? ●

Enjoy the show! (The interview is about 46 minutes.)

Listen at your convenience!

Click through to buy Ric O'Barry's books right from this site in the Amazon sidebar widget to the left.

Visit: SaveJapanDolphins.org; dolphinproject.org; Earth Island Institute; The Cove movie site; The Oceanic Preservation Society

Read a great article on Ric here.

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