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Sundance 2009: “The Cove.”

Sundance 2009: “The Cove.” (photo)

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“The Cove” is a documentary about Taiji, Japan’s capital for dolphin hunting, and how effective it is is directly proportional to how horrified you feel at the idea of dolphins being killed for meat. I’ve come to the conclusion that for me, the answer is: not very. I didn’t relish the concluding footage of the world’s most lovable cetacean flopping through its death throes in bloody water, but in the end I felt the same way I’ve felt when confronted with a look inside commercial slaughterhouses — was anyone expecting it to be pretty? Dolphins, unlike whales, aren’t endangered. They’re just cute.

A production of the Oceanic Preservation Society, funded by Netscape founder Jim Clark, “The Cove” is in part a very well supplied heist-style stunt that someone in the film compares to “Ocean’s Eleven.” While anyone can watch the dolphins be rounded up and offered to trainers as potential performers, for obvious PR reasons no one’s allowed to witness what follows, when the remaining animals are herded into a secluded area to be slaughtered by local fishermen. Director Louie Psihoyos and crew gather champion freedivers, military-grade thermal imaging equipment and HD cameras hidden in rocks designed by Industrial Light and Magic to capture the carnage in the forbidden zone. The film’s hero and guide is Ric O’Barry, former “Flipper” trainer turned dolphin protecting advocate, and its villains are many: the Taiji government, the local fishermen, SeaWorld, the International Whaling Commission. As “The Cove” tries to spiral out to tie in the first wave of mercury poisoning, caused by corporate pollution in the ’50s, and to touch on the massive Japanese fishing industry in general, it loses focus, makes some serious leaps of logic and at times flirts — unconsciously, to be sure — with racism in its generalizations.

Someone suggests that Japan’s insistence on whaling, and therefore the dolphin industry that’s grown since the ban, is a remnant of the country’s old empire status, one stubborn sticking point against bowing to the will of the west. It’s an interesting suggestion — certainly dolphin meat, cultural legacy or not, doesn’t have much of a market share in the country, as a far-too-brief man on the street segment indicates. And it’s cultural difference and unwillingness to bend on both sides that’s led to this issue. For the moist-eyed interviewees on the side of “good” in “The Cove,” dolphins are mirrors in which they see themselves. For the residents of Taiji, dolphins are just another type of sea life, and they see no disconnect in seeing them perform at the aquarium, and then buying dolphin meat in the gift shop. They just didn’t get to make a movie about it.

“The Cove” currently has no U.S. distribution. See all of’s Sundance coverage here.

[Photo: “The Cove,” Oceanic Preservation Society, 2009]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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