Standing ovations greeted the judges’ verdict Sunday that the documentary “The Cove” had won the prestigious U.S. Audience Award at the 25th annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
The feature-length film documenting the annual killing with spears and knives of more than 2,500 dolphins driven into a cove at Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, was selected as one of 16 finalists from 879 submissions in the category.
Directed by former National Geographic photographer Louis Psihoyos, “The Cove” was made secretly throughout 2007 using underwater microphones and high-definition cameras disguised as rocks, and with a camouflaged camera crew hidden on headlands.
It followed ongoing coverage of the issue in The Japan Times, including a Nov. 30, 2005, feature headlined “Secret dolphin slaughter defies protests” that went on to win the U.S. Humane Society’s coveted International Genesis Award for its writer, Boyd Harnell, and the newspaper’s Nature/Science editor.
Speaking at the festival, founded by Oscar-winner Robert Redford and now the world’s most prestigious for independent films, Psihoyos expressed hope that “The Cove” soon has worldwide distribution. “Once the Japanese people see ‘The Cove,’ I believe they will put a stop to the most ghastly slaughter of animals on the planet — animals whose meat is dangerously high in mercury,” he said.
Echoing those comments, Ric O’Barry, director of Save Japan Dolphins coalition and a marine mammal expert who trained dolphins for the famed “Flipper” TV series, and is featured in the film, told the audience: “We love Japan and we love the Japanese people and they have a right to know the truth. Up to now, the lone voice in Japan has been through The Japan Times, with guys like reporter Boyd Harnell and editor Andrew Kershaw getting the word out.”
As he spoke, he was flanked by rock star Sting, whom O’Barry said will be taking up the campaigning against Japan’s dolphin slaughter. It has been reported that more than 20,000 dolphins are killed in Japanese waters each year.