The Cove: Media Archaeology in Documentary storytelling



The documentary has a long history of using an archival material as one of its naSnip20170306_5.pngrrative resources. “The Cove” (2009) is a documentary film which analyses and questions dolphin hunting practices in Japan-Taiji. There are two storylines in this film. One of them is that of O’Barry, who is prominently onscreen in the archival footage from his decade with “Flipper” – TV show, to his reborn, 38 years as an activist fighting dolphin captivity and working for their welfare.

As Jussi Parikka states that “Media archaeology has been interested in excavating past in order to understand the present and the future.” (Parikka, J. 2012, p2)

My point is that some of the functions of media archaeology in documentaries are able to offer the evidence and foundation for continuities between old and new media. There are some examples of that point can be observed in “The Cove” (2009).

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Director uses these video archives to show the origins of critical issues that the Japanese hunt and kill dolphins in a crucial way, and the process of which people from Oceanic Preservation Society utilise special tactics and high technologies to secretly film what is taking place in the cove.

As Sean Cubitt mentions, “The major advantage of digital editing is that it allows compositing of live-action and digital components, and the mixing, in layers, of cinematographic, bitmapped and vector graphics.” (Cubitt, S. 2002, p25)

To sum up, it is no doubt that the archive is becoming a vital role in understanding a digital documentary, and its practices are worthy of investigation in the context of media archaeology as well.


Cubitt, Sean. (2002) “Digital filming and special effects.” In: Harries, D. (Ed.). The New Media Book. London: British Film Institute.

Parikka, J. (2012). “What is Media Archaeology?”. Croydon: Polity Press.

Toumarkine, D. (2009). Illuminating ‘The Cove’: Louie Psihoyos’ activist documentary shines light on dolphin slaughter. [Accessed 28th February]

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