The Cove opened on August 7.

The Cove is a documentary like no other I have seen. Like other such films, it aims to inform viewers of an issue or species, but unlike others, it also hopes to use its creative powers to send you sailing out of your seat screaming, “Get out of my way, I want to help!” I knew this already, as I attended the premier of the film in San Francisco last Friday, and wondered if it would work for me, a Conservation Manager who has seen many, many movies about the plights of animals.

So, I sat back, marveled at the audience rich with environmental leaders, munched my popcorn, and proceeded to have my world rocked. The Cove is indeed a nature and conservation movie, but throw in spy movie, hero movie, horror movie and action flick and you have a more accurate description.

The main character is Ric O’Barry, the original trainer for Flipper the bottlenose dolphin, TV star of the 70’s. Ric believes it was partly his doing that brought the world to love these marine mammals too much, leading to their exploitation. He is determined to help a tragically suffering population of dolphins in one cove in Japan. As we are introduced to the issues, we feel Ric’s pain, and his quiet hopefulness. He longs to reveal to the world the truth about this cove and we long for his success.

And then, somehow, it gets fun.

Ric enlists friends. Talented friends. Lots of them. Louie Psihoyos is one of them. Master photographer and nature documentarian, he and his group, the Ocean Preservation Society (OPS), take on the job of movie making, though they have never done such a thing before. “We’re all professionals”, they joke, “just not at this.” Louie steps up as Film Director and seeks out other adventuresome teammates. On board jumps an Expedition Director, as well as a Head of Clandestine Operations, giving me a serious case of job title envy. Throw in two world-class free divers, a DNA scientist and various mold makers from Industrial Light and Magic’s Prop Shop, cue the thriller music, and the game is on.

As we, the audience, experience the thrill of their journey to covertly make the film, we are amazed by their courage, compassion and humor and are reminded that humans can be phenomenally brave, powerful and imaginative. We are schooled in the reality of certain industries and asked to make entertainment and recreation choices with knowledge and compassion. We are awoken to the fact that dolphins are likely more wonderful and fantastical than we ever dreamed and it is simply a privilege to live on this planet with them.

At the very end, the film offers the audience ideas of how we each can help. It invites us to climb aboard their ship of dreamers and change-makers, and exposes the media’s greatest strength; the power to inspire change for the better.

As the credits rolled, the free dolphins soared through the clear water and the Wallflowers brought us home with “I want to swim, like dolphins can swim…” My heart pounded, my eyes teared-up and my hands clenched into fists. I think I ran over three environmental leaders as I busted into the hallway screaming “Get out of my way, I want to help!” I guess it worked for me.

See if it works for you.

37.7772 -122.166595

The Cove 12 August,2009Amy Gotliffe


Amy Gotliffe

Amy Gotliffe is Conservation Manager at the Oakland Zoo. She is a Detroit transplant, enjoying the good Bay Area life for 17 years. She has a degree in communications, holds several teaching credentials and has a Masters Degree in Environmental Education. She has worked at various Bay Area educational and environmental institutions, teaching second grade, working on campaigns, planting pollinator gardens, producing earth day events and generally spreading the word about wildlife and green living. She currently works at The Oakland Zoo where she serves as the Conservation Manager. There, she coordinates support for international, national and local conservation efforts, produces a Conservation Speaker Series, produces the zoo's Earth Day event, leads eco-trips, teaches the various educational programs and heads up an on-site Green Team. On her list of other passions are travel, photography, music and the lindy hop. :-)

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