Underwater Documentaries

Being a lover of the ocean and most things aquatic has meant that the release of Blackfish (2013) is much-anticipated one. Director Gabriella Cowperthwaite documents the life of infamous killer whale, Tillikum and the harrowing consequences of keeping receptive creatures of this kind in captivity. Blackfish is in cinemas this week.

Unfortunately, I haven’t yet been able to catch a showing. Regardless of this I urge you all to go and watch it; if it is anything like The Cove (2009), you will leave brimming with information AND, more importantly, with the desire to become an animal activist. This may sound fickle, but documentaries such as these are brilliant ways to capture the attention of the general public and to bring to light issues, that for what-ever-reason may not make it into our mainstream media.

For names-sake, ‘the cove’ is a hidden area within Taiji’s (Japan) national park. Fisherman in Taiji, are hired by the Japanese government to entice dolphins into the cove in order to slaughter them and eventually sell their meat. Annually, 23,000 dolphins meet their end this way. One other large money making scheme sees the best bottle nosed dolphins become entered into a bidding war, to be later taken away for entertainment purposes- these dolphins you can expect to see in places such as Seaworld and other marine parks.

The Cove, directed by Louie Psihoyos, presents ex dolphin trainer and current dolphin activist, Ric O’Barry, as the driving force for change. Ric’s instantaneous and thorough introduction sees him take us through the film with almost guru-like guidance. Ric himself reveals that to begin with, he spent ten years within the dolphin industry, and the last 35 years attempting to bring it to the ground.

The structure of the documentary creates such suspense, whilst at the same time retaining so much factual information, that it can be praised not only for being informing, but for providing blockbuster entertainment. The spy-style element helps to channel the energy of the audience alongside the activists themselves, wherein their goal becomes shared. Much more than documenting just the ecological damage, the film challenges stark differences in cultural heritage and Japan’s, or at least Taiji’s ability to move forward with socio-economic change.

Suggesting that dolphin meat is sold in shops across Japan disguised as other meats is another meteoric claim that if true, could bring widespread devastation to the country and its people. O’Barry’s commentary helps us to understand the high levels of mercury that dolphins carry in their bodies due to pollutions of the worlds oceans is highly poisonous and should definitely not be consumed.

Blackfish and The Cove, are upsetting and more than often, not easy to watch. No animal should be treated in ways such as these, and it is clear that for any type of change to occur, the first step is awareness- please watch both films if you have the chance. Compelling and heart-wrenching both films are great if you want to learn something new and as Ric O’Barry says- “if you aren’t an activist, you are an inactivist”.

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