For years I reserved a special animus against the Flipper show, the dolphin drama that had a popular run in the 1960s. It wasn’t the cute cetaceans, it was the show’s title, which is also a nickname anyone named Philip must resist, at home and abroad, until you pass out of the age when adorable diminutives seem to apply. A new film, The Cove, features Ric O’Barry, the dolphin trainer turned activist, whose dolphins we remember from the Flipper show. He now works against the capture of dolphins (for aquariums and live dolphin shows) and the far more disturbing practice of dolphin slaughter in places such as Taiji, Japan. The film follows the efforts of O’Barry and a film production crew (led by National Geographic photographer Louie Psihoyos) to film the grisly proceedings in Taiji. This is one of those rare documentaries that aims for the pacing and entertainment drive of a feature film, and yet still manages to pack in a lot of basic information and argument. As I say in my review, it’s tendentious and by no means objective, and it may elevate dolphin consciousness a bit higher than science is quite ready to accept (surely someone is smarter than he…). But it makes its arguments openly and honestly.
*Genuine lyric from Flipper theme song.