Friday, January 28, 2011

January 29 The Cove

The Cove is a documentary with unwilling and unknowing subjects. That is what makes it as important as controversial. Japan is an island with a long and necessary engagement with the sea. The culture of Japan, like any, is complex. Some themes sometimes seen are an intense focus on specialization and refinement. The Japanese and American way each have strengths and blind sides, especially when judged by the other.

The small town in Japan, Taiji, has developed a specialized industry of capturing migrating dolphins for zoos and meat. To them it's normal. Their activities are not widely known in Japan. They are also the only known spot in the world with this focus. The film, which won the Academy Award for best documentary in 2009, has encountered huge resistance in Japan against any public showings.

Another layer is the sensitivity in Japan to mercury poisoning. Minamata disease is the name given to systemic mercury poisoning caused by bioaccumulation in seafood from industrial waste. From a cultural standpoint, it would probably have the equivalent but stronger psychological resonance of the recent Gulf Oil Spill. Thus an ironic discovery of the film is that the town residents face the same pattern of milder mercury poisoning from eating dolphins.

The filmmakers engage in entertaining games of cat and mouse and the use of spy cameras. Though many dolphins were killed in the making of the film, the town's extreme secrecy prevented the most disturbing events from appearing graphically on camera.

Still the film raises critical questions about our attraction to zoos and our responsibility in the great chain of being.

The film is recommended as an entree to us each in examining our relationship with the sea, and its creatures.

Sponsored by the Sea Sheperd Society, it shows at the PSU Fifth Avenue Cinema. 510 SW Hall 7PM By donation