Ric O'Barry, Miami's Controversial Dolphin Rights Activist, Wins Big At the Oscars

Anyone in Miami who managed to sweat it out through four hours of insipid red carpet interviews, Joan Rivers' scary talking plastic face, and what felt like fourteen different sound editing categories at the Oscars last night was rewarded toward the end with a big-time local win.

Activist Ric O'Barry, a Coconut Grove native and former dolphin trainer turned anti-abuse celebrity, picked up an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature for The Cove. (Apologies for the Zapruder film of his win above ... it seems to be the only clip online yet this morning).

The Cove tells the story of O'Barry's quest to expose a dolphin slaughter inside a national park near Taiji, Japan. O'Barry got a major shout-out from producer Fisher Stevens on stage.

"(Thanks to) Ric O'Barry, my hero and a hero not only to this species but to all species," Stevens said. O'Barry then unfurled a banner onstage -- how'd he get that past security? -- asking people to text "Dolphin" to some number for unexplained reasons.

Of course most Oscar viewers didn't learn anything about O'Barry's fascinating backstory, his contentious relationship with other activists and his looming lawsuits in Miami. But that's why we're here!

Check out Natalie O'Neill's profile of O'Barry and his quest here.

Incidentally, the Wall Street Journal reports this morning that the Oscar win could give O'Barry's quest to stop Japan's dolphin slaughter a big boost: It's likely to now get a wider release inside Japan, where thus far it's screened only a single time at a film festival. 

Libel concerns and protests from Taiji town officials had held up a wider release, but the win, the Journal says, will likely push "The Cove" to more ordinary Japanese viewers.

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink