Who's In It: Richard O'Barry
The Basics: Ric O'Barry, the guy who trained all five dolphins for the old TV show Flipper has turned into an anti-training, anti-hunting dolphin activist. And he's got a good reason. Years of working with the creatures taught him that all those Sea World-like dolphin shows aren't so much fun for the animals with the "smiles" permanently attached to their snouts. And in a tiny secret cove off the coast of Japan, dolphins are mercilessly slaughtered en masse on a regular basis. In fact, "activist" may be too weak-sounding a word for what this extremely energetic and committed guy does. He's out to change the way the world thinks about all the endangered Flippers lucky enough to still be alive.
What's The Deal: This documentary is the most exciting espionage thriller of the year. You get a firsthand account of O'Barry and his crew of dolphin liberators as they infiltrate the most notorious of the fishing coves, sneak around under cover of darkness and fake out the extremely secretive and violent dolphin-hunting crews with underwater net-cutting divers and surveillance cameras embedded into fake rocks created by Industrial Light & Magic. They're almost caught several times and the suspense is more nail-bite-inducing than any fiction.
Why They Do It: Because the dolphin stunt shows, the film explains, are torturous for the dolphins and their sensitive hearing. They're literally driven to ulcers and what can only be called "suicide" by the stress and noise. Also, in Japan, they're harvested for food even though few people there consider dolphins an edible protein source and their meat contains extremely toxic amounts of mercury, ridiculously past the legal limit. It's senseless slaughter. Meanwhile, Japan's fishing lobby buys off poor countries to rally to their defense at international conferences and squash debates on the subject.
Surprise Cameo: By Hayden Panettiere, who's shown being caught and arrested by Japanese authorities when she and some other activists are caught trying to enter the cove. What she might not have known at the time was that she was also risking injury and death, since some activists have been killed in the process of trying to stop dolphin fishing.
Warning: Not to scare any adult off here, but the secret footage of dolphin death that the activists finally get is extremely disturbing and graphic. Do not bring small children to see this film. Bring yourself, but get a babysitter. Seriously. Your kids will have dolphin murder nightmares.