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ShoWest: Activist Doc The Cove Is Summer Counter-Programmer

Photo of Anne Thompson 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’Barry, 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.
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COVEE

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’Barry, 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.

This article is related to: Genres, Festivals, Awards, Oscars, Sundance, Documentaries


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.