Berkeley group behind Oscar winning documentary

March 8, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
A group of Bay Area activists has stirred up a cultural clash, after a film about their efforts won best documentary at the Academy Awards. It is a grisly portrayal of dolphin hunting, in a small village in southwestern Japan.

The Oscar winner documentary "The Cove" is about the place where thousands of dolphins are herded each year and then stabbed to death, and how a group of eco-activists are trying to stop it.

It is the work of the Earth Island Institute in Berkeley.

"People are calling in from around the world saying we hope this sends a signal to the Japanese government," Earth Island Executive Director Dave Phillips said.

The film is graphic. It follows Rick O'Barry the former trainer of Flipper, as he leads an almost stealth-like operation into the little village of Taiji.

O'Barry held up a banner during the Oscar acceptance speech. They were abruptly cut off, but it has generated reaction.

"It was controversial but it has had an effect. We've had about 40,000 people have contacted that text," Phillips said.

It is part of their website called www.savejapandolphins.org.

The government allows 19,000 dolphins to be killed every year. It is part of the Japanese diet, but Phillips says the fish is highly contaminated with mercury.

The fishermen in Taiji are upset with the attention. They think they are being singled out in what they call a biased look at a cultural tradition.

"The filmmakers feel comfortable that the truth is in the film and that images don't lie," Phillips said.

The film will open in Japan next month. The Japanese Consulate in San Francisco would not comment on the Oscar win or the dolphin hunting issue, but Earth Island will have 1,000 people in the Cove village on Sept. 1, the day dolphin fishing season begins.

"This Oscar award will be one of the most meaningful things to the fate to wildlife and oceans on this planet," Phillips said.


Load Comments