Two Berkeley Films Vie for Academy Award

By Gar Smith
Thursday February 04, 2010 - 08:32:00 AM

Two powerful documentaries—one profiling Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and the other celebrating dolphin-trainer-turned-activist Ric O’Barry—are among the five finalists in the 2010 Academy Awards race for best documentary. Both have ties to Berkeley. 

The Most Dangerous Man in America depicts the moral transformation of a Pentagon hawk who risked career, family, and freedom to expose the lies behind the Vietnam War. It hits the screens as the United States is once more mired in a long, bloody conflict based on a lie (the Tonkin Gulf Incident replaced by Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent WMDs). 

Filmmakers Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith are based in Berkeley and headquartered at Fantasy Films in West Berkeley. “We are so proud to be nominated,” Ehrlich stated. “This is a wonderful opportunity to spread awareness about Daniel Ellsberg’s amazing story and inspire new generations of whistleblowers.” 

The film opens Feb. 19 at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinema. 

The Cove tells another gripping story of an insider whose life was upended by a crushing moral dilemma. Ric O’Barry trained the TV dolphins collectively known as “Flipper.” Like Ellsberg, O’Barry eventually realized he had been a cog in a monstrous machine. Transformed, O’Barry began risking arrest by releasing dolphins from captivity. Like Ellsberg, he’s been threatened with death, harassed, spied on, beaten and jailed. 

The Cove, a pulse-pounding mix of intrigue and daring, has been described as “Flipper Meets Mission Impossible.” O’Barry and Berkeley-based Earth Island Institute have worked together for years (O’Barry is EII’s Marine Mammal Specialist). During a screening of The Cove at the David Brower Center last year, O’Barry correctly predicted this film was “going to put a spotlight on this secret environmental disaster.” David Phillips, head of Earth Island’s Marine Mammal Center, agrees. “We believe The Cove can be a game-changer,” he says. 

The Cove is available on DVD. See www.thecove movie.com.