The Academy has a lot of stupid and/or controversial rules regarding the Best Documentary category, and one of them is that only two people can be nominated for a given non-fiction film–generally, the director and the producer most active during production. In the case of last night’s winner, The Cove, the producer most active during the film’s production was Paula DuPre Pesman, a long-time member of Chris Columbus’ production team who started a non-profit org with Cove director Louie Psihoyos and managed the distant production remotely from Colorado, even hiding raw footage in her family home when the crew were worried it would be confiscated by Japanese authorities.
But Pesman was omitted from the ballot in favor of Fisher Stevens, the actor and budding documentary producer who has taken credit for transforming The Cove in post-production from “your typical boring documentary” into “an eco-Oceans 11.”
Well, if there could only be one nominated producer, someone was going to get shut out, and certainly Stevens must have been instrumental in connecting The Cove to its celebrity fans. At least, unlike some producers, Pesman was allowed to attend the Oscars, and surely she and Psihoyos would be allowed to speak on behalf of the efforts to save the dolphins on the telecast.
Alas, no. At last night’s Oscars, though Pesman, Psihoyos, and Cove subject Rick O’Barry took the stage along with Stevens to accept the award, as the clip below shows, only Stevens was able to speak before the whole team had to leave the stage.
Stevens rushed to the mic as the rest of the team was assembling on stage, and made brief speech thanking/introducing the others (although he flubbed Pesman’s last name). As he stepped away from the mic and Psihoyos moved in, O’Barry began to hold up a sign that read, “Text DOLPHIN to 44144.” The on stage mic was turned off as the music swelled up, and the camera immediately swerved away, resting on unidentified audience members applauding. After an uncomfortably long beat, the telecast cut back to the stage, seen from a different angle. In the clip, you can see an usher gesture to a confused Cove crew that they had to exit the stage. And they did.
Apparently, Psihoyos intended to give this brief but firm speech, reiterating the conservationist message of the movie and urging Japanese moviegoers to see it for themselves. Should we give the telecast producers the benefit of the doubt and assume they cut away just because the show was running long? Or were the longest-suffering activists on the Cove team intentionally cockblocked before they could get across any substantial politics? What do you think?