A documentary that opens in Atlanta today deals with topics that seems far away from our landlocked city — fisheries and school lunches in Japan? Really? But the dolphin massacre detailed in “The Cove” does have some local ties, and could have a local impact.
We are home to the Georgia Aquarium, and it’s currently building a dolphin facility. Folks there absolutely condemn the dolphin slaughter shown in the film. About 23,000 dolphins die there every year; another is scheduled to begin this fall. That’s not where their dolphins will come from, and they maintain that their dolphin conservation and research programs will help them.
But that’s not enough, argues Lori Marino, a senior lecturer in neuroscience and behavioral biology at Emory University. She researches dolphins and was in contact with the filmmakers while the documentary was in production. A clip of her dolphin mirror study appears in the film. She believes taht dolphins, a large mammal with advanced communication systems and societal structure, don’t belong in captivity.
I interviewed both for a story about “The Cove” that ran this week. Read it here: “Documentary shows dolphins in dangerous water,” understanding that I could’ve written a story three times that long and not gotten the whole story to fit.
I’m fascinated by how both come so differently to the same conclusions: that dolphins are wonderfully smart, but misunderstood creatures; that the slaughter shown in “The Cove” is tragic and inhumane; that they’re not safe to eat; that the chemicals dumped into waters are hurting them, and an anyone that ingests their meat; that they ought to be protected.
Plenty of reviews have brimmed over with the details in “The Cove,” how its subject matter is so shocking, and how its storytelling is so unusually engaging for a documentary. I’ve seen it — it’s intense, and a great telling of a sad story. It clearly has a point of view, although the filmmakers bend of backward to say they wanted to include the other perspectives. Nobody would take part.
Mostly, I’m curious to see what, if any, impact it will cause here. When I talked with the director of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums, she pointed out that “The Cove” may be the kind of film that goes unnoticed most places, but gathers a following or an outcry in places where people know, see, love dolphins. The Georgia Aquarium, of course, is the largest in the world.
Want to see more?
Here’s a “Fresh Air” interview with the film’s director and the activist it follows.
And here’s the trailer: