By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood April 2, 2009 at 5:50AM
ShoWest screened the activist Sundance doc The Cove, which Roadside Attractions and Participant Media picked up after the fest and will open this July as a summer counter-programmer. National Geographic photographer Louie Psihoyos founded the Oceanic Preservation Society and channeled his passion for saving dolphins into making a movie that plays (somewhat like Man on Wire) like a thriller. The film focuses on dolphin activist Richard O‚ÄôBarry, who fell in love with the dolphins he wrangled on the TV show Flipper. At this point, if O'Barry or the filmmakers return to Japan they face arrest.
What's exciting is how, like Burma VJ, the defiant act of filming something forbidden (Japanese cops were all over the filmmaking team) can be used for social change. Psihoyos deployed high-level deep sea divers, unmanned drones, and ILM FX designers to hide hi-def cameras inside fake rocks. He also planted military-grade thermal cameras and hydrophones around a deadly high-cliffed lagoon in Taiji, Japan where fishermen trapped and slaughtered countless dolphins. The footage they captured was damning indeed. "I should have done this 30 years ago," Psihoyos said of directing. Jeremy Piven may be his poster child--the movie also deals with the high levels of mercury in the sea's biggest fish and dolphins.