It was really a great moment for environmental filmmaking ... the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature went to the stunning and controversial film The Cove, which exposed the illegal practice of herding and slaughtering dolphins at a national park on Taiji Island, Japan.
Just a couple days earlier I was at the Earth Island Institute fundraiser for the dolphins overlooking Malibu with Ric O'Barry. I was deeply impressed by Ric's dedication to end the systematic slaughter of dolphins and to inform the public (in particular the Japanese public) about the mercury-poisoned meat that they are consuming.
I was also struck by a deep sadness in the man's eyes. Ric caught and trained the dolphin that later starred in the hit TV show Flipper, a show which spawned a multibillion dollar market in wild sea mammals. Flipper took her own life ... in Ric's arms, and it was clearly an event that has stuck with him to this day.
Ric is a man bent on protecting the wild animals of the ocean. He doesn't seem to care at all about fame or money, which would explain his clear breach of protocol during Sunday's Academy Award show. If you missed it, Ric held aloft a sign to "Text Dolphin to 44144," an action which brought on the wrath of the awards shows' producers.
Without hesitation, they brought up the music and prematurely ended the acceptance speech of Cove filmmakers. But for Ric it was an opportunity he had to take.
During the fundraiser he said that he felt whether or not his movie was the best, it needed to win because it would almost certainly require the Japanese government to allow the film to be screened in Japan, something that the state-run media operation does not want to do. And he said that if the Japanese people knew this was happening, they would boycott dolphin and whale meat.
In case you are wondering what will happen if you text "dolphin" to 44144, you will not be billed, but you will be signed up for an alert system where subscribers will be informed how to take action to protect the dolphins, a simple but powerful use of texting that is being promoted by Participant Film's activism site, TakePart.org.