May 18, 2009

The Cove: a cross between Flipper and The Bourne Identity.

The Cove may be the best, most worthwhile yet thoroughly entertaining movie you haven’t seen yet. Winner of the Sundance 2009 Audience Award, The Cove is an “eco-thriller” documentary via Lionsgate, produced by a bunch of friends and acquaintances including filmmaker, Louie Psihoyos, right here in elephantjournal.com’s hometown of Boulder, Colorado.

Click above for trailer. On making the film: “We didn’t need filmmakers, we needed pirates.” ~ Louis Psihoyos

A few photos:

For more amazing photos, click the “raw dolphin menu” photo below:

“Sundance is known for documentaries. But this baby, a cross between Flipper and The Bourne Identity, packed the heat. Using technology borrowed from George Lucas’ ILM, an intrepid America crew slips into Japan and nails the bad guys for doing terrible things to dolphins.” ~ Rolling Stone magazine.


“Don’t make a movie in the water with animals in a secret cove where people want to kill you.” Via the Sundance Channel:

Interview via a Boulder, Colorado-based friend with filmmaker Louie Psihoyos:

Louie, tell us a bit about your film, The Cove.

Louie Psihoyos: The film is about bringing together a team of activists: surfers, world champion freedivers, tech specialists, using high tech surveillance
gear, military grade thermal cameras, remote-controlled aerial drones, to penetrate a secret cove in Japan that hides some of Japan’s darkest secrets.

We also had the help of George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic (now Kerner Optical) to create special “rock cams” to hide high definition cameras and
microphones in the cove where we wanted to shoot—the Japanese police and whalers didn’t want us to get in and capture footage of what happens in the
cove, so we had to go totally covert. Rolling Stone Magazine said it was like the “Bourne Identity meets Flipper.”  That’s a pretty good description. I like to think it was the result of watching too many James Bond movies and Jacques Cousteau specials as a child.  

It’s an eco-thriller – it’s a documentary but it plays like a thriller.

Still, it was mostly made right here in Boulder—that’s why it was important to do a screening locally, in the Boulder Theater. Our cast and crew have been
great. Their friends and families here will have a chance to see the film in a theater well ahead of the rest of the country.

The theatrical release is set for July?
Yes, several art house theaters in New York and LA. Then it will roll out to about 35-40 of the top markets.  Basically if you live on the coasts and
have large skyscraper in your city you can see The Cove this summer.  

For the smaller markets we will have to see what the box-office numbers do nationally to see if it can break out further.  What we have going for us is
that it’s a great word of mouth film, impossible to forget and people can’t stop talking about it for days after they’ve seen it.  There are images and
scenes in the movie that will burn your retinas forever.  It’s the most beautiful movie you will ever see and perhaps the most terrifying.

How have audiences responded?
Ever since we won the audience award at Sundance we have been playing to sold out houses and standing ovations on the festival circuit. We have been
picked up by Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions domestically and international distribution through The Works.  

It’s a tough market right now for indie films, and we feel very fortunate to have so much interest.  We already licensed it to Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  It hasn’t been announced but one of my favorite film makers in the world is picking it up for France, Luc Besson who did The Big Blue, The Professional and Taken.  When we show it in Cannes next week, out of competition, the announcement should perk up the ears of every foreign distributor. We have been invited to screen at
dozens of film festivals around the world and at this point we need to be pretty selective, we could spend every day of the next year waking up in a new town.

Who financed the Film?
My dive buddy Jim Clark, who was the founder of Silicon Graphics, Netscape and WebMd was the main backer.  

“He’s a serial entrepreneur who now is giving back
because he’s seeing that we’re running out of time to fix the problems 
that are building up in the environment.”

Our friend Richard Schaden, who has been my attorney for more than a decade got behind the project and gave us the backing for P & A (Prints and advertising) so that if the film breaks out, our non-profit stands to keep most of the back-end.

Who was the principal talent in Boulder?
Paula Dupre Pesman has been our producer from day 1.  She worked in Hollywood for years with the director Chris Columbus who did the Harry Potter series, Home Alone, Mrs., Doubtfire, she kept us organized and on track along with Olivia Ahnemann who was a line producer.  I like to think of them as the grown ups.  Joe Chisholm was our production manager, kept track of hundreds of cases of gear, Charles Hambleton, co-owner of the Fox Theater was in charge of Clandestine Operations, most of our work in Japan was done at night, Cinematographers Brook Aitken and Eric Abramson are seasoned pros. Editors Mike Scalisi, Miles Hubley and Tommy White and Russ Wiltse were top notch.  My wife Viki did press releases and edits my work into English. Our aerial crew was terrific. James Mac and David Sundstrom were world class.  James Mac builds components for satellites at CU and it was his first time out of the country, and he’s flying remote controlled helicopters with high def cameras attached into the secret cove – he has a really warped idea of foreign travel now.

What do you hope happens as a result of your film?
I would say that we have a different mission from most films. We’re not just trying to put butts in the seats, which is a part of it. We are trying to
achieve something. The Cove is the first product of our non-profit company, Oceanic Preservation Society, OPS.

“We have mission statement, ‘We’re not trying to
save the whole planet, just 70% of it.’” 

With The Cove we are trying to accomplish several things. We’re trying to raise awareness about what’s going on in the oceans. Dolphins, who have bigger brains of our own, they are sentient gregarious creatures, and we’re capturing them by the thousands to perform stupid tricks for out amusement. I think that says a lot more about our own intelligence than it does theirs.

Also, we are killing them for their meat because we are running out of food. Let’s look at that.

And the dolphin meat, and tuna meat, and almost all large, long living fish are toxic, and not just a little. Some are off the charts. Some of the most expensive sushi is the worst for your health.  I used to eat a lot of sushi and large fish but as a result of doing the film I found out that I had mercury poisoning.  

“I had to stop eating most fish. And that’s because of us.”

Human activity, burning of fossil fuels like coal is ending up in their meat and we are not just damaging them but damaging the humans that consume them.  Mercury has a half-life in the human body of about 70-90 days so after about two years my mercury levels came down to tolerable levels.

What’s next?
After this, we continue to work the domestic film festival circuit. Soon, we have the international screenings coming up. I try to give intros and Q & A for most festivals when I can. It seems that most viewers are curious, “How did you get the footage?” “Were you worried for your safety?” And of course the common refrain, “What can I do to help?”

It seems that when a film is finished, you are only halfway there. We are only now at the halfway point. 


More videos:

Skip to 1:11:

Amazing story around 1:11:

Bonus videos. Pretty touching at 1:30, Hayden Panettiere:

This is Graphic. If you can watch all of it and eat sushi within the same 24 hours, I’ll be surprised. Helps contextualize why Sea World and others would boycott Rick O’Barry.

Matt Damon narrates:

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