A sold-out crowd gathered at the Tuesday night for an evening of music, film and discussion centered on the plight of dolphins in Japan.
Ric O’Barry, originally famous as the trainer of the five dolphins who played TV’s Flipper, is the hero of the documentary The Cove that chronicles his efforts to obtain footage of dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan.
O’Barry joined director Louis Psihoyos to document how dolphins came to be water park attractions and the inhumane way in which we’ve come to treat perhaps the smartest animals on earth.
Following a standing ovation as the credits rolled, O’Barry and Psihoyos took the stage along for discussion with the audience.
While the film has toured several movie theaters around the globe, Psihoyos said the most interesting screening was at the Tokyo International Film Festival where many of the movie’s “bad guys” were in the audience. The documentary incited a free speech movement unrelated to the content of The Cove, due to protests against screenings in Japan, he said.
The film is not meant to demonize the fisherman, Psihoyos said. They are innocent figures in the greater scheme of things and the actions of a few in Taiji should not reflect the populace of Japan as a whole, the director told the audience.
“Most are unaware of what is going on in their homeland. We recently delivered a DVD copy of our movie, with Japanese subtitles, to every resident in Taiji,” he said.
Not all the Q&A was serious. Right before Psihoyos flew down to Taiji with O’Barry, he happened to be on vacation a boat away from Steven Spielberg. The two filmmakers’ sons became friends, so Spielberg came to introduce himself, Psihoyos told the audience.
When the legendary director asked Psihoyos what he did professionally, the latter answered that he was a still photographer, but that he was thinking of moving into filmmaking. “Never make a film with boats and animals,” Spielberg advised him.
The Q&A also featured legendary musician Bob Weir and female race car driver and activitist Leilani Munter. On the stage with a guitar and microphone, Weir reflected on visiting a dolphin enclosure while on vacation with his daughter.
When he and his daughter looked in the dolphins’ faces they “were staring straight into a tragedy,” he told the audience.
The Grateful Dead founding member and long-time Marin resident then proceeded with a six-song set, jamming and crooning his way through the immense back catalogue he’s cultivated with the Dead, Ratdog and Further, among other projects and his solo career.
When asked if the situation in Taiji had changed since the release of his movie, O’Barry said the dolphin hunting season was slated to begin in the fall, as it always does.
“We’ll be back on Sept. 1,” he said, “and we’ll let you know.”
Psihoyos shared a quote from Margaret Mead that seemed to sum-up the message not only of the benefit that evening, but the movement it was held to strengthen.
“All social change comes from the passion of individuals,” he recited. “The time has come for the next Ric O’Barrys of the world to step forward and continue this fight.”
Click here to learn more about the The Cove and how you can help.