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Notes from the back row

Killer documentaries



Who doesn't like dolphins? Those cute and playful marine mammals (don't call them fish) with the permanent smiles that just might be as smart as some of us. Everyone loves dolphins, right?

Nope. Not everyone, and certainly not the Japanese, unless you're talking about lunch. The Japanese hate dolphins, so much that every year they lure a shitload of them into a small cove near the town of Taiji and capture and slaughter them all. The best dolphins get shipped off to Marine parks, zoos, and illegal fish tanks around the world, the rest become lunchmeat (labeled as "whale" but containing near-poisonous levels of mercury) that is sold to many markets and on the menu in Japan's elementary schools.

"Who's so smart now, eh dolphins?" The Japanese taunt. "We getcha every year in Taiji and you keep coming back." The Taiji slaughter accounts for 23,000 dolphins over a 30-day period, and they do it year after year after year.

In The Cove , a great documentary opening this Friday (not here, try the city), the waters around the cove in Taiji are fenced off and guarded so as to keep the illegal capture and slaughter a secret. But dolphin activist Richard O'Barry, who feels a bit responsible for the popularity of dolphins due to his work as a trainer on that old TV show Flipper , teams up with filmmaker Louie Psihoyos to make a real cloak-and-dagger activist film that's as harrowing as any spy movie. The pair hire free divers to infiltrate the cove with mics and use super high-end hidden camera equipment to capture some truly horrifying scenes of the slaughter.

Being trailed by the Japanese police at all times, the filmmakers of The Cove deliver a real suspense story with geopolitical elements to rival any Hollywood fiction - why is the International Whaling Commission and Japan so hellbent on oceanic destruction?  Money, of course.

O'Barry is the perfect eco-warrior hero and The Cove never gets preachy but after watching the brutal, horrific final sections of the film even the most hardened, pessimistic, degenerate dolphin-hater will be wondering, "What the hell is wrong with these people?"

To be fair, not all the Japanese hate dolphins, and most of the country has no idea of the horrors going on in their own backyard. Check out for more info and to find out how you can take action. Like Sharkwater, the epic shark-finning movie (where the Chinese and Costa Ricans are the villains) this one is worth a drive down to the city.

Up here at the Village 8, no new flicks are opening due to Wednesday's release of the latest Harry Potter film. This one is the start of the end for that franchise and is a lot less kid-friendly than prior episodes - good stuff if you're into Potter.

Even if you're not into "Pot", the online movie of the week is The Union: The Business of Getting High , an in-depth look at B.C.'s $7 billion per year marijuana industry. Filmmaker Adam Scorgie takes a long (almost two hours) hard look at why weed is illegal and who's making all the money. The answers might surprise you.

Private prisons are one of the U.S.'s fastest growing industries but their business model only works as long as they have more and more people to lock up. And what would the Pharmaceutical companies do if people were allowed access to a plant that can remedy any number of health problems but is easily grown by anyone?

From industrial hemp to the guys who'll make the effort to bury 20-train boxcars in the ground for a grow-up The Union is a cohesive look at one of the biggest shams running these days. is the official site and you can find the actual movie at the usual places.

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