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Ithaca College's Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival Helps Bring Documentary On Dolphin Slaughter To Ithaca

ITHACA, NY — Ithaca College’s Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival (FLEFF) will join Cinemapolis and the Finger Lakes Bioneers to present the Ithaca premiere screening of “The Cove,” a documentary expose of the annual killing of more than 23,000 dolphins in a lagoon in Japan. The showing will take place at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 25, at Cinemapolis’s new location at 120 E. Green St. General admission is $9; tickets for seniors (64 and older) and children (12 and under) are $7.50. The screening will be followed by a discussion featuring Todd Schack, assistant professor of journalism at Ithaca College, and Christopher Clark, the I.P. Johnson director of Cornell University’s Bioacoustic Research Program.

Off the picturesque coast of Taiji, Japan, dolphins and whales swim in abundance. But nearby is a cove protected by armed guards who challenge anyone from entering, including anyone with a camera. What they don’t want people to see, say the makers of “The Cove,” is the annual six-month long slaughter of thousands of dolphins herded into the lagoon by local fishermen.

Led by Ric O’Barry, who captured and trained the dolphins that played the title character on the 1960s television sensation “Flipper,” the production team of underwater sound and camera experts, marine explorers and divers carried out an undercover operation to photograph what was happening in the off-limits cove. To infiltrate the tight security provided by the local police and to evade the watchful eyes of the local fishermen, the crew used camouflaged, high-definition cameras designed to look like rocks to capture footage for the film.

“’The Cove,’” wrote “Time” magazine’s Mary Pols, “puts Hollywood capers like ‘Mission Impossible’ to shame.” According to a reviewer at the Sundance Film Festival, “The Cove” is, “part environmental documentary, part horror film, part spy thriller . . .  as suspenseful as it is enlightening.”

What the film shows is more than the brutal slaughter of intelligent mammals.

“It’s really about over-fishing,” O’Barry said. “It’s a worldwide problem. Basically, they’re killing the competition, because each of those dolphins eats 25 to 30 pounds of fish. As for the dolphin meat, nobody really knows where it goes. You can’t really even buy it in Taiji. I’m thinking it might be exported to places that have a protein shortage. We had this meat tested, and the mercury levels on it is through the roof. It’s contaminated.”

Directed by Louie Psihoyos and produced by Paula DuPré Pesman and Fisher Stevens, “The Cove” has won more than a dozen awards, including the Audience Award at the 2009 Sundance, Hot Docs and Sydney Film Festivals as well as Best Feature Film at the 2009 Nantucket Film Festival.For more information, contact FLEFF co-director Patricia Zimmermann at (607) 274-3431 or

Partnering with FLEFF in the screening of "The Cove," the newly formed Finger Lakes Bioneers will host a diverse array of programming in concert with the internationally renowned Bioneers Conference. From Oct. 16 to 18 the inaugural Finger Lakes Bioneers event will be held on the Ithaca College campus and various locations downtown. For more information on the program and tickets prices, visit

Originally published in News Releases: FLEFF Helps Bring Documentary On Dolphin Slaughter To Ithaca.