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DVD Pick: The Cove

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'The Cove' DVD Cover Art

'The Cove' DVD Cover Art

© Lionsgate

A Brilliant Piece of Agitprop About a Dolphin Slaughter

The Cove (2009) is a documentary that shows how emotionally powerful film can be when used for advocacy journalism. With terrific footage and superb editing, this is nonfiction storytelling at its finest. The movie features an aging protagonist seeking redemption, an evil town and a caper that exposes a dirty secret.

The story begins with the old TV series Flipper, where the title character was a lovable dolphin who was sort of an aquatic Lassie. The 20-something Ric O'Barry was the wrangler for the five bottlenose dolphins that played Flipper on the show. But in The Cove, O'Barry is in his late 60s and believes what he did as a young man was wrong. In his pursuit of atonement, he frequently gets arrested for trying to free dolphins from captivity.

Most of The Cove takes place in the picturesque town of Taiji, Japan, where dolphins are slaughtered for meat. O'Barry and a small commando-like team go to Taiji, where they are relentlessly harassed by local police and belligerent fishermen. But with a combination of derring-do and hi-tech equipment, the team persists in trying to capture on film the dolphins being brutally speared to death, turning the ocean water red with blood.

The Cove is exceptionally well made and emotionally engaging throughout. Bottlenose dolphins are intelligent, cute and friendly, and few people would defend the way they are treated at the Taiji killing cove. But the film's focus is narrow, and most of us need help in grappling with the larger issues involved. Still, the filmmakers have done a service by making a splendid consciousness-raising movie.

Audio Commentary, Deleted Scenes and Three Featurettes

The Cove DVD provides a feature-length audio commentary by director Louie Psihoyos and producer Fisher Stevens that you'll want to listen to if the documentary caught your fancy. Psihoyos says he took seven trips to Japan over 18 months to make the movie and shot more than 700 hours of footage. He urges viewers to avoid going to parks where dolphins are kept in captivity — the filmmakers consider this to be animal abuse. Also, Psihoyos claims that the main thing Japanese people get upset about in the film is that an American guy is shown indoors standing on a tatami mat while wearing shoes.

There are three interesting deleted scenes with a total runtime of about 10 minutes. One of these shows half a dozen people, including actresses Hayden Panattiere and Isabel Lucas, paddle out on surfboards into the bay at Taiji and get into a confrontation with fishermen. Another has Ric O'Barry dressing in drag and wearing a woman's wig to try to fool the Taiji police. The third deleted scene shows happy people at the Taiji Whale Festival, which celebrates the town's profitable relationship with marine mammals.

The DVD also contains three featurettes with a total runtime of roughly 32 minutes. "The Cove: Mercury Rising" warns of the dangers of the increasing levels of mercury found in sea creatures. "Special OPS Cameras" is about the various cameras used in making the feature documentary, including a military-grade thermal camera. "Freediving" is a montage of lyrical underwater shots of the two divers who appeared in The Cove.

DVD Details

Below I have listed all the details for the DVD containing The Cove.

Release Date: December 8, 2009
Feature Film Runtime: 1 hour 31 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Disturbing Content
Aspect Ratio 16x9, Color
English 5.1 Dolby Digital
English 2.0 Dolby Digital
English Subtitles
Spanish Subtitles
Audio Commentary by Director and Producer
Special OPS Cameras (5 segments, total runtime = 9 min.)
Freediving (5 1/2 min.)
Deleted Scenes (10 min.)
The Cove: Mercury Rising (18 min.)
Theatrical Trailer

A pre-release review copy of the DVD was provided by Lionsgate. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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