Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ric O' Barry Elaborates On His Tale Of Redemption--And Dolphins

In "The Cove," the award-winning, revolutionary documentary about--among other things--the annual dolphin slaughter that takes place in the cove of a small Japanese town called Taiji--Ric O' Barry looks deeply weary, but is also a riveting, heroic presence, emerging as the nominal star of film.

As soon as I saw "The Cove," I knew I wanted to interview O' Barry on "Talking Animals."

For one thing, I'm fascinated by people who undergo a wholesale transformation, and O' Barry's arc extended from dolphin trainer in the 1960s--most notably, training the five dolphins who portrayed the titular star of "Flipper"--to shortly after that experience, becoming, arguably, dolphins' chief protector/rescuer/advocate.

This has meant everything from trying to generate attention toward the tightly-guarded carnage that takes place at Taiji, to emerging as a staunch opponent of any form of dolphin captivity.

Interestingly, going through proper channels to seek the interview with O'Barry, I got jerked around in myriad, puzzling ways--I can only conclude, counter-intuitively, that the studio and others affiliated with "The Cove" do not want to encourage O'Barry-centered publicity.

Maybe their mandate is to place director Louie Psihoyos at the center of such efforts. At any rate, with a clock ticking ever more loudly before I knew O'Barry was flying back to Japan, I finally recognized that the folks ostensibly helping me coordinate the interview couldn't/weren't going to get it done, I started trying to track O'Barry down on my own.

I did so Friday Aug. 28, as he was racing around handling final preparations to depart first thing the next morning for Japan, and we recorded this interview, which aired on the Sept. 2 edition of "Talking Animals."

We touched on everything from his surprise that he ended up being the focus of "The Cove," to what triggered his transformation (Cathy, the main dolphin portraying "Flipper," was so despondent in captivity after the series concluded that she committed suicide in his arms), to his ensuing efforts on behalf of dolphins and attendant tale of redemption.

Which led to some intriguing comments on the prospect of Michael Vick experiencing his own tale of redemption.

Even with the audio challenges (in recording this interview, there were some ghosts in the machine), it was a powerful conversation, laced with O'Barry-derived insights and surprises.

And then we said goodbye, so he could resume preparations for his return to Japan. Clearly, as this L.A. Times piece made clear, when he arrived in Taiji, he hit the ground running.

Indeed, he's got dolphins to save.

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