Archive for December 2008

Documenting the Taiji Dolphin Slaughter

December 3, 2008

One of the most prominent and interesting figures in the world of dolphin activism is Ric O’Barry. Here’s a bio and book review on one of his books.  Behind the Dolphin’s Smile.  He was the original dolphin trainer for the old Flipper TV series …. an experience which eventually prompted him to take a strong position against dolphin captivity and since that time he’s become probably the single most vocal and effective spokesperson for the anti-captivity activists.

I haven’t met Ric, and although I felt inclined to reach out to him a few times, never quite did because quite frankly the dolphin activism world is a very delicate and highly politicized one.  Our first film, Eye of the Dolphin, did in fact depict dolphin captivity and even though it ended with the dolphin’s free under a “Third Phase” concept … our position was a “middle ground” one wherein we were essentially backing a Third Phase concept that will still be unacceptable to the hard core anti-captivity movement.

All of which leads to the point that I was pleased to hear from Ric, even in a small way, when he reached out to this blog and forwarded a copy of an article which I would like to re-publish here, as it’s about something important and worthwhile.  A word of warning — some of the images are pretty graphic and tragic.

Thanks, Ric

Secret film will show slaughter to the world

Covert operation finally exposes Taiji’s annual dolphin horror

Special to The Japan Times

For the first time ever, graphic feature-length footage of the annual slaughter of some 2,500 dolphins in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, has been captured during a unique yearlong covert operation.

News photo
OPS filming team leader Louie Psihoyos (foreground, above) and assistant director Charles Hambleton in camouflage overlooking Taiji’s “killing cove,” where whalers (below) haul dolphins aboard their boat from the blood-red sea. OPS PHOTOS
News photo
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The secret filming by members of the U.S. conservation group Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS) — equipped with state-of-the-art technology and financed to the tune of $5 million by Netscape founder Jim Clark — is being turned into a major documentary feature film destined for worldwide release this summer (although distribution in Japan is at present not certain).

The story of how this film of the barbaric killing and subsequent butchering of dolphins was made — together with the resulting sale of their meat that massively exceeds Japanese and international limits for mercury content — is told here, exclusively, for the first time anywhere in print.

The footage of the annual seven-month dolphin “drive fisheries” (as they are known in Japan), and of the brutal practices involved in them — as well as the complicity in the killings by various dolphin trainers and officials from Taiji Whale Museum — is sure to shock the world. But whether Japanese people themselves will be able to see the film and arrive at their own conclusions is still by no means certain.

The annual dolphin slaughter at Taiji, a town with a population of some 3,500 in the beautiful Yoshino Kumano Kokuritsu Koen national park, follows a regular pattern.

First, hunter boats from the Taiji Isana Union (numbering at most 13 skiffs, with two crewmen each) head out to sea and surround pods of dolphins or pilot whales (which are actually large dolphins). Then they drive them into a “capture cove” by banging on long metal bell-ended poles placed in the water to disrupt the dolphins’ sonar, causing them to become completely disorientated and panic.

After these animals have spent a night supposedly relaxing in the netted-off capture cove (in an attempt by the whalers to make their meat more tender), they are driven to the neighboring “killing cove.” There, behind huge blue tarps strung across the cove to keep prying eyes away — in much the same way that Japanese police cordon off crime scenes — the dolphins meet their gruesome predawn end.

It is a gory spectacle that Taiji has long striven to keep anyone from seeing — and one that is crucially fueled by the lucrative, worldwide dolphin captivity and display industry. Aquarium operators, some of whom have claimed to be saving dolphins’ lives by selecting a few as performers, pay up to $150,000 per animal.

The brutal selection process, though — as shown in the OPS footage — causes many of these highly intelligent marine mammals to die of shock or drown.



Gnashing my teeth…….

December 3, 2008

Elsewhere in this  blog I talked, back in July, about the challenge of getting “all the chickens under the mother hen” — meaning getting all of the actors you need together at the time you need them.  As we have been working to set up the three day Los Angeles shoot that will conclude the last bits of production, we’ve been having the same problems all over again. This is nothing unique to our film but it’s frustrating.  FIrst, during September, it was Paul Wesley’s hair (he had it shaved for four appearances on Army wives). That pushed us into November.   Then there were some other problems that forced to push it to an either/or — either 1st week of December or second week of January.  December didn’t work for several — so it became January … but then some of the key actors had players had films that got into Sundance (announced over Thanksgiving), and now the early Jan is jeopardized.  We are going to get this done in January no matter what — one way or another.

Meanwhile — as frustrating as that is from a “let’s get it done now” standpoint, the extension is helping us creatively as we work through the impact of the Supreme Court Decision on the script and fine tune other aspects.  Plus we have Bahama second unit pickups to do which were going to be done later but now we’ll pull forward ahead of the US finale.

I will say this … in virtually every film I’ve done over the last 5 or six years, having a little add-on shooting on a stage in LA at the end has been a very helpful factor and quite frankly was not this difficult to schedule.  It could be that on this film we have more actors and better ones and they’re more in demand … and that this year is just different.  (Oh, and while Sundance pushes us out of the 10-15 Jan area, there is also the inauguration on Jan 20 that pushes us another week back — David Keith and possibly Caitlin are affected by this.) I don’t know, but this is a part of what producing films is all about and we’ve just got to pull it together, and we will .

I expect to get a fully locked down and irrevocable final date for the two day shoot within the next week.