Information for Parents
Common Sense Media says OK for kids 14+
Gruesome, powerful, and inspiring dolphin documentary.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this movie is the 2009 Oscar winner for Best Documentary. It contains brief, but disturbing and gruesome imagery around the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan. Though the movie contains a plethora of information about dolphins, the arc of the story focuses on the dangerous attempts to gather proof of the dolphin slaughters. The movie is informative, interesting, and inspiring, but contains shocking pictures: blood-red water, fishermen striking blows, and dolphins struggling and dying. Also, there's an almost constant tension in the film, an ever-present threat of violence. The goal of the movie is to inspire audiences that something can be done, but sensitive and younger viewers might wish to avoid it.
- Families can talk about the disturbing and violent images in the film. Was it necessary to show them?
- Are Ric O'Barry's methods to save the dolphins drastic, or are they appropriate? What else could people do to help?
- If the dolphins are smarter than humans, what types of things might they teach us?
- What other atrocities are happening in the world in the name of greed and profit? What are some of the other ways we can stop them?
The good stuff
Positive messages: This is a very inspirational and heroic movie. This band of characters employs teamwork and problem solving in order to triumph over terrible odds. They don't necessarily risk their lives, but they do risk their livelihoods as well as some jail time. (They compare themselves to a real-life Ocean's Eleven team.) They do all this to right an egregious wrong (and the movie goes into detail about why it's wrong). Parents, however, may break into a cold sweat at the thought of their own children participating in similar activities.
Positive role models: Ric O'Barry is a terrific role model, aside from the fact that he keeps getting himself arrested in the name of his cause (although this might make him all the more appealing to younger viewers). Over the course of the movie, we hear the story about how he captured and trailed dolphins for the Flipper TV show (1964-1967), enjoyed his fame for a while, and then began to regret his actions. He now devotes his life to freeing and saving dolphins. The movie even makes a plea to its audience; O'Barry is now in his late 60s and someone needs to follow in his footsteps.
What to watch for
Violence: Though the movie doesn't feature wall-to-wall violence, it contains life-changing moments, notably the brief but powerful imagery of dolphins being slaughtered. We mainly see the water turn red with blood, but there are images of fishermen striking blows and images of struggling dolphins. Otherwise, there is the almost-constant threat of violence, as the filmmakers attempt to get close to the killing grounds. There are aggressive face-offs, and other vaguely sinister confrontations.
Sexy stuff: Not an issue, though there are images of women swimming in bikinis.
Language: Very brief, sporadic language, including uses of "Goddammit" and "Christ."
Consumerism: The film mentions and shows pictures from Sea World several times, but in an effort to demonstrate the downside of the theme parks. The movie does not entice viewers to rush out and buy tickets.
Drinking, drugs and smoking: Not an issue