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Film

Interview With Louie Psihoyos

Posted by Jasia / August 17, 2009


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Thriller-documentary The Cove is currently showing in Montreal theatres. First time film project of devout activist and acclaimed National Geographic photographer Louie Psihoyos, the film attempts to uncover a moral and environmental problem from an angle that is both entertaining and relevant.

The cove from which the movie takes its name is located in Japan, where every year large numbers of dolphins are killed or captured for captivity, as dolphin themed amusement parks have become an economic force to recon with. The film deals with the issue from many angles: from the questionable practice of keeping dolphins in captivity to the misguided attempts of the Japanese government to promote dolphin meat as a food despite its' toxic mercury content, because of the government's blind pursuit of whale hunting as a symbol of national autonomy.

Bellow is a shortened [aka edited] version of my interview with Louie, conducted before the pre-pre-pre premier of the movie in Montréal:

Jasia: I'm a little curious about the funding [for the film]. Who funded it, as it was obviously a very high budget [production] with some of the equipment you used?

Louie: Yeah, Joe Clark, a billionaire friend of mine, he's a serial entrepreneur, he's started three billion dollar companies from scratch. We've been dive buddies for twelve years or something like that and we've been going around to the best preserved dive spots in the world and just basically watching them degrade and he said somebody should do something about it and I said how about you and I.

J: I was curious about the reaction to the film a little and what the biggest criticism you've received for it? Has it been universally well received?

L: I haven't heard any kind of pushback from the Japanese government yet.

J; Ok. And has it been screened in Japan? Will it be screened in Japan?

L: The Tokyo films festival, one of the directors wrote last week and said: "given the them of this year's film festival- which is the environment, we're doing a green carpet not a red carpet- it would be hypocritical of us not to show The Cove." And we just found out they're not showing it.

J: wow! (the shocked kind of wow, not the happy kind)

L: It's because the Tokyo Film Festival is sponsored by the government; they're big sponsors and they're not going to piss off their sponsor by showing it.

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J: Right. But given the internet...has there been any reaction out of Japan?

L: A lot of Japanese people have seen it and they're shocked. And the other emotion is shame. [However] I feel like we vindicate the Japanese people; we're trying to isolate a small group of Japanese fishermen and the Japanese government for being complicit in it. We're not going to win the issue on and animal rights issue, unfortunately. You know, we're all a bit inhuman in our use of animals, each culture, it's not a cultural issue, it's a man to man issue. When these animals are that toxic with mercury it's not food: it's poison.

J: So has there been any reaction ...based on the people who've seen the film?

L; There's been a lot of talk a lot of it I know that there's a lot of Japanese-American groups meeting tonight in New York to talk abut it to try and negotiate some sort of peace, some kind of change. It's only been out for 4 days so far in New York and L.A. It really hasn't had a theatrical run yet, it's just beginning.

J: How much hope do you hold out for the oceans in general, because throughout the film it [The Cove] is presented as microcosm or as a symbol of our disrespect for this particular environment, [so are] are you still hopeful?

L: I hate to bet against Jim Clark, the guy that gave me the money- he jokes that we should be calling the Oceanic Preservation Society the Oceanic Remembrance Society. He feels like human greed will probably doom us. I wouldn't be doing this film if I didn't feel there was hope- my hope is to inspire a big group of young people to help fix the problem that my generation caused.

J: But obviously you made this in the spirit that.... (Louis jumps in)

L: Absolutely. We can at least fix the cove. Which to me is a win-win for not only the dolphins an porpoises but for the Japanese people, because all the dolphin meat that been tested in the last.. ..at least a decade has been found to be toxic.

J: One thing that when I was watching the movie made me very uncomfortable was that you [the audience] are made complicit. You're watching and not doing anything. What was it like to have to watch it happen and to record it?

L: It was horrifying. I had to edit down about 40 hours of pretty gruesome footage down to about two minutes that people could watch. This is the Disney version of the horror that goes on back there, we have a PG 13 rating!

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I'll be honest when I say that I went into this film feeling slightly cynical about the degree to which I could care about the plight of some overly cute dolphins in the face of global environmental meltdown. This unease was only added to by the aggressiveness with which it was being promoted. But by the end, I was won over; thoughtful and subtle as well and intense and action packed it offers a convincing argument, and the drive with which Psihoyos pursues the film's success seems to be sincerely that of an genuine activist.


All Images © Maple Pictures Corp. All Rights Reserved

Discussion

4 Comments

jonathan reid sevigny / September 4, 2009 at 06:23 pm
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everybody should go see this film.
Hasan / February 3, 2015 at 11:39 pm
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Interesting that link to the NY: Putain' reminds me of the Spanish word Puta'. I have no doubt that both paitun' and puta' originally come from the classical language Latin (the closest I get is ) It's been a long time I read and wrote (and spoke) Latin.

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